Dozens of Ukrainian children have already been killed and up to six million more are in "imminent danger" as Russian forces continue their assault on Ukrainian cities, the humanitarian organization Save the Children warned Monday.
"We are extremely alarmed by reports that bombs and intense shelling have damaged more than 460 schools across the country, and over 60 now lay in complete ruins," Pete Walsh, Save the Children’s Country Director in Ukraine, said in a statement on Monday. "School should be a safe haven for children, not a place of fear, injury or death."
Ukrainian authorities said Sunday that Russian forces bombed an art school sheltering 400 people in Mariupol, a port city on the Azov Sea that has been under siege for weeks.
"To do this to a peaceful city, what the occupiers did, is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday evening. "The more Russia uses terror against Ukraine, the worse the consequences for it."
On Thursday, Russian forces killed 21 people when they shelled a school and community center in Merefa, a town northeast of Kharkiv, Mayor Veniamin Sitov said.
Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi posted a picture on Friday of 109 strollers in the city's historic Rynok Square, symbolizing the lives of 109 children who he says have been killed.
Nearly 3.5 million people, 1.5 million of whom are children, have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Saturday that children fleeing the war are at a "heightened risk of human trafficking" as "traffickers often seek to exploit the chaos of largescale population movements."
"The war in Ukraine is leading to massive displacement and refugee flows – conditions that could lead to a significant spike in human trafficking and an acute child protection crisis," Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, said Saturday. "Displaced children are extremely vulnerable to being separated from their families, exploited, and trafficked."
The United Nations announced Sunday that it could verify the deaths of at least 75 children since Russia invaded, but warned that the actual number is likely "considerably higher."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.