A man reacts as he stands in front of a building damaged
by, what locals say, was recent shelling by Ukrainian
forces, in Donetsk. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Heavy shelling hit residential neighbourhoods in
Ukraine's rebel stronghold of Donetsk and government forces
fought street battles in other towns as they sought to crush a
four-month-old separatist rebellion.
The forces of the Western-backed Kiev government are steadily
gaining the upper hand over the separatists in
Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine and are tightening the noose
around the main rebel bastions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Reuters reporters in Donetsk said mortar rounds had struck
Chelyuskintsev Street in the north of the city, a few km
(miles) from the frontline of the conflict, shattering the
windows of several five-storey apartment buildings and
shearing off the branches of trees and downing power lines.
The attack left large craters in the street and a metre-wide
hole in the first floor of one of the apartment buildings.
"The Ukrainian army or whoever they are - they're bombing us
again. I've lived in the apartment building my entire life
and now they want to take everything I have. There is nothing
left to lose here in this city," said Nina, 52.
The Donetsk city administration, controlled by the
separatists, said nine residents had been killed in shelling
on Wednesday. The Ukrainian government denies that its forces
are targeting civilian areas.
Another nine people, pro-Ukrainian volunteer fighters
supporting Kiev's forces, were killed overnight in separate
clashes near Donetsk, Ukrainian officials said.
The government in Kiev and its allies have accused Moscow of
orchestrating the separatist rebellion and equipping the
rebels with tanks, missiles and other heavy weaponry.
Moscow denies this and accuses Kiev of waging a war against
its own people and shelling civilians.
The conflict has plunged relations between Russia and the
West to their worst level since the end of the Cold War in
The United Nations puts the death toll in the conflict at
2,086, including civilians and combatants. That figure has
nearly doubled since late July, when Ukrainian forces stepped
up their offensive and the fighting spread to major urban
"DUST AND SMOKE"
Another Donetsk resident, Lidia, recounted how shelling had
hit the shop where she works.
"I hid behind the counter and closed my eyes. When I opened
them everything was dark, full of dust and smoke," she said.
"How can we live like this being bombed by the leaders of our
Six military trucks rumbled past the wreckage of the house,
including one equipped with an anti-tank machine gun and a
mobile Grad rocket system. Rebels, wearing green camouflage
and sunglasses, looked over the wreckage as they passed.
"They'll pay for this," one rebel said, as government convoys
sped through parts of the city, running red lights.
Elsewhere in the region, Ukrainian forces fought street
battles with rebels in the town of Ilovaisk overnight into
Wednesday, Interior Ministry official Anton Gerashchenko
The nine Ukrainian volunteer fighters were killed in those
"The enemy can come up to you from wherever he wants and
shoot from an attic, a basement or from a children's
nursery," Gerashchenko said.
Separately, health authorities said 34 civilians had been
killed as a result of fighting in the 24 hours up to noon
Wednesday in the wider Donetsk region.
Local authorities in Luhansk, the other big separatist
stronghold, also reported artillery fire and heavy automatic
fire on Wednesday as government forces kept up their assault
on rebel positions there.
Luhansk has been largely cut off for weeks and is without
water and regular supplies of electricity which have hit
mobile and landline phone connections.
Only vital foodstuffs are on sale while long queues form for
bread being distributed from vans.
"The humanitarian crisis is critical. Since there's no
electricity, people are now cooking meals outside in their
yards on open fires," Oleksander Sabenko, a municipal
official, told the Ukrainian news channel 112.ua.
As well as worsening conditions for people on the ground,
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said the fighting
was draining the potential of the economy by the day, with
attacks damaging mines, power stations, rail lines and
"Russia is aware that rebuilding the Donbass (the industrial
east) will cost not millions but billions of hryvnia," he