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Story Publication logo May 8, 2022

Dozens Feared Dead in Russian Strike on School As Ukrainians Vow To Fight On in Mariupol


Ukraine refugees flee to Hungary

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First Lady Jill Biden spent part of this Mother's Day making an unannounced visit to Ukraine, meeting with her Ukrainian counterpart, Olena Zelenska, as America’s top diplomat returned to the post in Kyiv for the first time since the war began. Meanwhile, Russian attacks continued overnight, including a strike on a school in eastern Ukraine that officials fear killed dozens. Nick Schifrin reports from Kharkiv.

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Geoff Bennett: It is good to be with you. We begin again tonight in Ukraine where First Lady Jill Biden spent part of this Mother's Day making an unannounced visit meeting with her counterpart Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska.

Zelenska had not been seen in public since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. A U.S. official says the two women have exchanged correspondence over the last few weeks.

And today in the capital city of Kyiv, America's top diplomat returned to the post for the first time since the war started. That's as Russian attacks continued overnight, including one in eastern Ukraine where President Zelenskyy says 60 people were killed. Nick Schifrin has our report from Kharkiv.

Nick Schifrin: These blown out walls, this pile of debris all that's left of a school turned shelter. Local officials say 90 people were hiding here from the very bombs that reduced the building to rubble. Russia claims its targets are military, but its battlefield of choice has been civilian neighborhoods like this one outside of Kyiv where today Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy compared Russia's invasion to Nazi Germany's crimes in Ukraine.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President (through translator): You say 'never again,' tell Ukraine that our cities which survived such a heinous occupation that 80 years are not enough to forget, saw the occupier again.

Nick Schifrin: In a statement Russian President Vladimir Putin threw the accusation back. He says the self-declared independent regions of Ukraine's east were working on the quote 'liberation' of their native land from Nazi filth.

Tomorrow, Moscow will celebrate the anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat and Western officials say Putin could declare victory in Mariupol after Russian forces destroyed it. Mariupol evacuee 71-year-old Volodymyr Chichko has been through hell.

Volodymyr Chichko, Mariupol Evacuee (through translator): They bombed us at night and in the day, one jet after another. As soon as it appeared, boom, boom. The whole center, the whole center.

Nick Schifrin: Russia is bombarding Mariupol's final holdout, the Azovstal steel plant. The resistance is led by the Azov battalion, which began as far right militants now integrated into the Ukrainian army.

Ilya Samoilenko, Azov Regiment: Surrender is not an option because Russia is not interested in our lives. They are not interested to let us live.

Nick Schifrin: Ukrainian officials hope that those fighters in Mariupol can hold out a few more weeks, by which time there'll be more Western weapons here and Ukraine could launch a counter offensive. Here in Kharkiv, they've already launched counter offensives that have pushed Russia away from the city. But Geoff, U.S. officials fear that tomorrow Putin could use that Victory Day parade to declare that he's going to escalate this war that has already stolen so many lives and destroyed so much of this country.

Geoff Bennett: Thank you, Nick. And a note our coverage of the war in Ukraine is supported in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.


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