Deadly clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists continued Sunday as investigators searched the site of a plane crash for a third day.
Local officials in Donetsk say six people were killed there in shelling between the two sides. An official tells Reuters news agency three other people were killed in Luhansk.
A Reuters reporter in central Donetsk said the shelling echoed through the night and witnesses said several buildings caught fire in the outlying Petrovsky district, including a school. The smell of smoke stretched as far as the city center.
Many residents of Luhansk, which is close to the border with Russia, have no electricity and some are without water, the city administration's press office said.
Rebels forced into Luhansk, Donetsk
Advances by the Ukrainian army have forced the rebels out of most of the towns they had occupied in Russian-speaking east Ukraine and squeezed them mainly into Luhansk, which had a population of about 400,000 before the conflict, and Donetsk, which had about 1 million residents.
The Ukrainian military said it had suffered no losses in the latest fighting.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian military operation, Alexei Dmitrashkovsky, told The Associated Press that government soldiers were fighting Sunday to hold positions they had taken on the edge of Donetsk, but were meeting resistance.
Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, in which in the United Nations says more than 1,100 people have been killed, have stalled.
Remains headed to Netherlands
Meanwhile, the remains of more victims from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 arrived in Kharkiv Sunday to be prepared for transportation to the Netherlands.
The head of the Dutch police mission working at the crash site, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, said in a statement late Saturday that crews have finished searching one of five zones of the crash site. He said completing the search will take at least three weeks.
On Saturday, international investigators recovered the remains of more victims at the site of the Malaysia Airlines wreckage.
The team of 70 Dutch and Australian investigators worked scoured parts of the 20 square kilometer crash site, despite nearby fighting. Some of the investigators had to delay their search because of the clashes.
The investigators, along with officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, are focusing on recovering several dozen bodies still missing more than two weeks after the Malaysian plane was shot down, killing all 298 passengers and crew. Most of the victims were Dutch.
Dutch and Australian forensic experts and police were examining debris in the village of Rozsypne, a few kilometers (miles) from the main wreckage.
Roads to the crash site were for days too dangerous to use because of fighting, but the experts finally got there on Friday and hope to recover the last of the victims' remains. The victims included 196 Dutch, 27 Australians and 43 Malaysians.
Shelling nearby forced the experts to stop their search for human remains on Saturday in one area where debris was found, but they were able to work unhindered at the main site.
On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama said he spoke by telephone with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, with Obama saying the United States remains deeply concerned about Moscow's increased support for the separatists in Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Obama said he discussed his preference for a diplomatic solution with the Russian leader. Obama, however, said there are limits to what the United States can do.
"Right now what we've done is impose sufficient costs on Russia that objectively speaking they should, President Putin should want to resolve this diplomatically," he said.
"Get these sanctions lifted. Get their economy growing again and have good relations with Ukraine; but sometimes people don't always act rationally and they don't always act based on their medium- or long-term interests. That can't deter us though. We just have to stay at it," Obama added.
White House officials said the two leaders "agreed to keep open their channels of communication."
Russian officials said Putin told the U.S. president that fresh sanctions imposed on Russia for its support for the separatists were "counterproductive" and would cause "serious damage to bilateral cooperation and international stability."
Ukraine and Western governments blame pro-Russian rebels for the shootdown of the Boeing 777.
Moscow denies the accusation and blames the disaster on Kiev.
U.S. analysts said the jetliner likely was downed by pro-Russian separatists launching a Russian missile, thinking the jetliner was a Ukrainian military aircraft.
Rebels intent on establishing autonomous republics near the Russian border have been battling Ukrainian troops for three months.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.