At least 21 people killed by Russian airstrike that destroyed school near Kharkiv

Fire can be seen emerging from the building after it was hit by Russian artillery

At least 21 people have been killed after a Russian airstrike hit a school and community centre close to the north-east Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, officials have said.

Merefa's Mayor Veniamin Sitov said the attack occurred just before dawn on Thursday.

The Kharkiv region, some 42 kilometres from the Russian border, has seen heavy bombardment as stalled Moscow-sent forces try to advance in the area.

On Wednesday, the regional emergency service said that at least 500 residents of the city had died since the start of the invasion, which has seen scores of innocent Ukrainians killed in indiscriminate attacks.

A video captures the aftermath of the shelling on the educational facility

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said that more than 600 buildings have been destroyed in Ukraine's second city in the east of the country, including schools, nurseries and hospitals.

Doctors have described the difficulty of treating Covid patients as bombs rain outside amid the sound of air raid sirens.

“Bombing takes place from morning into night,” hospital director Dr Pavel Nartov said.

“It could hit at any time.”

The eastern city has been pounded by waves of shelling, causing powerful explosions and prompting the evacuation of those lucky enough to find a safe route to flee.

Thursday's attack came a day after Russian bombs struck a theatre where civilians were hiding in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

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