School still smoulders a week after being hit in razed Ukraine village

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BILOGORIVKA, Ukraine (AFP) - The charred basement at the bottom of a heap of rubble that was once a two-storey grade school was still hot a week after a military strike Ukraine says killed 60 people sheltering from Russian bombs.

Three of the building's soot-covered corners were all that stood upright at the site of what Kyiv alleges was one of the gravest crimes committed by Russian forces since the February 24 invasion of their pro-Western neighbour.

Cracks of close-range mortar fire echoed across the smouldering remains of other buildings and military equipment littering the roads of Bilogorivka - an east Ukrainian village razed by one of the biggest battles of the war.

Mr Vladimir Gerasimenko climbed from his cellar during the briefest of lulls in fighting and walked out dazed to catch his first glimpse of the sun in seven days.

He could hardly believe his eyes.

"The world has turned upside down," the 70-year-old said while staring at the remains of a school the Soviets built for the coal mining village after World War II.

"Slavs are killing Slavs. Who knows why or what for."

Local governor Sergiy Gaidai says 60 people sheltering in the school's basement "likely" died in a Russian aerial bombing attack on May 7.

Moscow's UN ambassador has rejected the "absurd" allegation that Russia was deliberately targeting schools.

But missile strikes and bombings of schools such as the one in Bilogorivka have become all too common across the war zone.

The United Nations children's relief fund estimates that one in six schools receiving its support in the Donbas war zone have been either "damaged or destroyed".

Most east Ukrainian schools and other big buildings have been turned into emergency relief centres or shelters that are often filled with both soldiers and civilians.

Yet the ruins on School Street in Bilogorivka revealed few secrets about what exactly happened on that fateful night.

There were no signs of life or bodies in either the top layers of the rubble or the still-intact floors of the basement on the school's better-preserved side.

The impact left a massive crater in the middle of the building that appeared to run deep underground.

A golden thermal blanket hinted at a rescue effort that the governor says pulled out some survivors within the first few hours of the attack.

The strike occurred in the middle of a stil...

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