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Civilians Killed as Shells Rain Down in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region

Kiev, Ukraine (CNN)Seven civilians were killed when shells hit a trolley bus station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, the Donetsk City Council said Thu...
UKRAINE POROSHENKO

Kiev, Ukraine (CNN)Seven civilians were killed when shells hit a trolley bus station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, the Donetsk City Council said Thursday, as the months-long conflict in the country’s east showed little sign of easing.

In total, 10 civilians have been killed and 20 injured in shelling of four city districts in the past 24 hours, the city council said on its website.

“As of now, the situation remains difficult,” the statement reads.

Militants shelled two civilian areas elsewhere in the Donetsk region early Thursday, Ukraine’s state-run Ukrinform news agency reported, citing Donetsk regional police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin.

The reported shelling comes after talks Wednesday in Berlin between the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France aimed at resolving the crisis through the implementation of a peace deal agreed last year.

After Wednesday’s talks, the foreign ministers of the four nations involved condemned the continuing violence and called for the peace deal agreed in Minsk, Belarus, last September to be respected.

Fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk region “has severely escalated causing the loss of many human lives including civilians. This must stop immediately and the regime of quiet must be restored,” it said.

They said “tangible progress” must be made on full implementation of the Minsk pact ahead of a planned peace summit.

Poroshenko: ‘9,000 Russian troops in Ukraine’

Ukraine’s government has this week accused Russia of sending troops across the border to support the pro-Russian rebels who are battling government forces for control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Russia denies the claim.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, in an interview Wednesday with CNN in Davos, Switzerland, repeated the claim.

“We have more than 9,000 Russian troops who — so-called — lost the way, crossing our Russian-Ukrainian border bring with them hundreds and hundreds of tanks, armed personnel carriers, and killing Ukrainian civilians and attacking Ukrainian troops,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking in Moscow before the Berlin talks, responded to Ukraine’s assertion with another denial.

“As to the flow of troops and armaments, this is not the first time we hear something like that,” he said. “And each time I hear that I say, if you’re so confident about that, please present us with facts but no one has been able to provide us with these facts.”

‘Destroying homes’

The civilian areas reportedly targeted by rebels Thursday were Debaltseve and Avdiyivka.

“Terrorists using Grad multiple launch rocket systems are targeting and destroying homes,” Abroskin said on his Facebook page, adding that the extent of the devastation and the number of casualties was not yet known.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in an update posted Wednesday, cited numerous instances of shelling in recent days.

The local education chief in government-controlled Debaltseve said 860 children were no longer attending school because of shelling in the city on Monday, it said.

Pro-Russian separatists have claimed control of parts of Donetsk and Luhansk since the spring, despite a push by Ukrainian forces to defeat them.