The attack happened Saturday in the village of Bilohorivka in the Luhansk region. The governor of the region said about 90 people were using the school as a shelter when it was hit, and only 27 emerged rubble alive on Saturday. Ukrainian officials and the United Nations secretary-general have condemned the bombing as an attack on civilians.
“As a result of the Russian airstrike at Bilohorivka, Luhansk region, about 60 people were killed,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday. “Civilians who simply hid in the school from the shelling. It was a targeted strike at the school. Another crime of the occupiers.”
Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said on Sunday that the Russian bomb ripped through the school’s roof, and the explosion set the building on fire. Two bodies had been recovered as of Sunday morning, but the threat of continued Russian shelling made rescue operations difficult, according to Haidai.
“Most likely, all 60 people who remain under the rubble are now dead,” the governor said on Telegram.
Survivors of the airstrike recounted their distressing experiences to CNN on Sunday.
“I got slammed down by a slab — bent into a ball,” one man injured in the bombing told the network. “Then another explosion, small rocks fell on us. Darkness.”
“There was a woman in our room screaming the whole time. She was pulled out and screaming the whole time. I told her, ‘don’t scream.’ We couldn’t hear a thing.”
“They started digging,” he said. “I got out. I was like a drunk man — lost.”
The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared footage of the aftermath of the bombing on social media and condemned the attack as a “war crime, noting that the attack occurred just days before international remembrances marking the end of World War II in Europe.
🇺🇦 MFA strongly condemns #Russian shelling of a school in Bilohorivka, sheltered 60 people, on May 7. #Russia committed this brutal war crime shortly before the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation, constantly repeating the tragedy of World War II.#StopRussianWar pic.twitter.com/dxf3fX7GrZ
— MFA of Ukraine 🇺🇦 (@MFA_Ukraine) May 8, 2022
“Russia committed this brutal war crime shortly before the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation, constantly repeating the tragedy of World War II,” the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement on Sunday that he is “appalled” by the reports of the school bombing.
“This attack is yet another reminder that in this war, as in so many other conflicts, it is civilians that pay the highest price,” the statement from Guterres read.
The attack comes amid reports of “slow and uneven progress” in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offensive in the Donbas region of Ukraine, with Russian forces struggling to break through Ukraine’s front lines, according to the Pentagon.
The latest casualty numbers by the U.N. put the number of civilians killed in Ukraine since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion at 3,309, with at least 3,493 injured.