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Eastern Ukraine Fighting Kills 4 Civilians

  • VOA News

School coach Yuriy Balabanov meets his students inside a gym which was damaged by a recent shelling in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Oct. 19, 2014.

School coach Yuriy Balabanov meets his students inside a gym which was damaged by a recent shelling in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Oct. 19, 2014.

Four people were killed and nine wounded by shrapnel from fighting over the weekend in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, local officials said.

Pro-Russian separatists and Kyiv government forces have continued to clash on the outskirts of the rebel stronghold despite a Sept. 5 cease-fire agreement that has generally contained violence in other parts of the country's contested east.

Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko, speaking at a daily security briefing in Kyiv Sunday, said 13 Ukrainian servicemen had been wounded in the past 24 hours in fighting in the east.

There was no immediate word on casualties among rebel fighters.

Germans on plane crash

Meanwhile, Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency has concluded that pro-Russian rebels are to blame for the downing of Malaysia Airline MH17 in Ukraine in July, Der Spiegel weekly reported on Sunday, making it the first European agency to place blame on the rebels.

The crash over pro-Russian separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine on July 17 killed all 298 passengers and crew and led to a further deterioration of ties between the West and Moscow.

Gerhard Schindler, president of the BND, told a secret parliamentary committee on security affairs earlier this month that separatists had used a Russian Buk missile defense system from a Ukrainian base to fire a rocket that exploded directly next to the Malyasia Air plane, Der Spiegel reported.

“It was pro-Russian separatists,” the magazine quoted him as saying.

The BND concluded the rebels were to blame after a detailed analysis based on satellite and other photos, Der Spiegel said.

No one at the BND was immediately available to comment.

Meanwhile, the sounds of mortar fire and rocket launchers were heard in central Donetsk throughout Saturday night as fighting went on several kilometers (miles) away.

Residential area hit

Residential areas of Donetsk are often caught in crossfire as they sit next to the city airport, a strategic and symbolic target that neither side has been able to take full control of during a prolonged stand-off.

A headmaster of a school, Andrey Udovenko, said the fighting is continual.

"We can see with our own eyes, what cease-fire really means. Yesterday, on Saturday, and today, on Sunday, there were not even 10 minutes without somebody shooting," Udovenko said. "We hear very well the shooting and how shells hit our neighborhood. Yesterday shells hit houses near our school, where our children and their families live."

Donetsk resident Lubov Mikhailovna said an explosion at her house came as her family was eating supper.

"Our house was damaged. Family was having supper when the explosion happened. We didn't even understand where it came from," Lubov Mikhailovna said.

"We have about 15 pieces of shrapnel shells in our flat, in the bedroom, kitchen. I have no idea how we survived. Walls and ceilings were pierced by shrapnel. It is terrible," she added.

Fighting around the airport picked up toward the end of the week as world leaders - including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko - discussed the crisis during talks in Italy.

They made little progress on ways to stop the violence.

Kyiv and the West accuse Russia of fanning the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. They have imposed sanctions on Moscow, who they see as guilty of providing support, including arms and troop reinforcements, to the rebellion.

Moscow shares the separatists' dislike of Kyiv's pro-Western government, but denies playing a role in the armed conflict.

Some material for this report came from Reuters.