Kiev/Donetsk. — Heavy shelling hit residential neighbourhoods in Ukraine’s rebel stronghold of Donetsk and government forces fought street battles in other towns on Wednesday 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 bombs had struck Chelyuskintsev Street in the north of the city, a few km 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 1991.
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 areas. — Reuters