DONETSK: Five civilians and five government soldiers were killed in the latest fighting in east Ukraine, government and pro-Russian rebel officials said Saturday.
Over the past 24 hours four civilians were killed by shelling across government-held territory while one local resident died in rebel bastion Donetsk, officials from the two warring sides said.
Clashes with pro-Moscow insurgents over the same period claimed the lives of five government soldiers and wounded 26 more, Ukraine’s military said.
Missile fire on Saturday hit east Ukraine’s battleground town of Debaltseve a day after a brief truce allowed hundreds of civilians to flee, government officials said.
“In Debaltseve since 6:00 am this morning rebels have been firing Grad rockets,” Kiev-loyal regional police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin said.
Ukraine’s military had previously said that a temporary ceasefire that saw shelling of the beleaguered town halt for several hours Friday could be extended into Saturday.
Kiev’s emergency rescue services said that 753 people, including 81 children were evacuated Friday from Debaltseve and surrounding towns after the government and rebels sent in buses to collect them.
A separatist military spokesman said Saturday that the insurgents were not planning to dispatch any more buses to evacuate civilians due to safety concerns.
Only some 40 people opted to head to the rebel side Friday.
Debaltseve — mid-way between rebels centres Donetsk and Lugansk — has been the focus of fierce fighting for over a week as insurgent fighters try to encircle government troops holding the strategic railway hub.
Amnesty International said earlier this week that most of the town’s former population of 25,000 had fled, but that around 7,000 civilians remain behind.
An AFP journalist in the main rebel city of Donetsk said that the sounds of heavy explosion could be heard around the city Saturday.
Some 5,400 people have been killed by fighting since the start of the conflict in April, according to the United Nations.
World leaders were meeting at a security conference in Munich Saturday to try to further frantic diplomatic efforts to end the crisis.