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‘Cruelty of this war,’ says UN as children death toll still unknown in Luhansk shelter attack

Some 90 villagers with their children had taken cover in a school building when it was bombed by Russian military Saturday; 60 are feared dead.

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New Delhi: The UNICEF fears the Saturday bombing of a Ukraine school by Russian forces has just added to the death toll of “hundreds of children” in the war.

In a statement, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said the organisation strongly condemned “yet another attack on a school in Ukraine amid reports that civilians, including children, had sought shelter in the school’s bunker.

“We do not yet know how many children might have been killed or injured in the reported bombing, but we fear this attack has just added to the hundreds of children who have already lost their lives in this war.”

Russell said families who were caught up in the attack should have been “celebrating Mother’s Day today in Ukraine, not mourning the loss of loved ones.”

Nearly 60 are feared killed in an airstrike by Russian forces on a school in Bilohorivka in the Luhansk region Saturday. At least 90 people were sheltering in the building when it was bombed. Nearly thirty were rescued, some with severe injuries.

The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Hayday, said two bodies were immediately found in the debris and the chances of finding anyone still alive were very bleak.

He said the blast destroyed the building which had caught fire. It took firemen three hours to extinguish the blaze, he said.

Hayday also said the entire village was sheltering in the school building. The final death toll would be known when the debris has been removed, he said.

Catherine Russell said schools must never be attacked or used for military purposes. “Targeting civilians and civilian objects, including schools, is a violation of international humanitarian law. This latest attack is just one of the many instances in this war where we have seen a blatant disregard for civilian lives.”

Meanwhile, the UN Crisis Coordinator for Ukraine and UN Assistant Secretary-General Amin Awad said the attack is “yet another stark reminder of the cruelty of this war”.

He said in a statement: “Civilians and civilian infrastructure must be spared in times of war; these obligations under international humanitarian law are non-negotiable. The sooner we seek a peaceful end to the war, the better for the people here in Ukraine and everywhere in the world.”

Awad expressed his “profound shock” and said the United Nations agencies and its humanitarian partners in Ukraine would “continue to support those whose lives have been shattered by war”.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had said last week that 220 children have been killed since the beginning of the invasion in February. The UN estimates that 1.6 million children may have been displaced outside the country.

Also read: Europe dreams of military power, but NATO’s still in charge. India must engage with caution


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