Donetsk: Fighting in Ukraine`s war-torn east killed four civilians overnight, officials said on Friday, as government forces and pro-Russia rebels battled for control of a key airport.
The civilian deaths occurred at a warehouse hit by shelling in the rebel bastion of Donetsk, the city administration said. The shelling caused fire to break out, which led to the civilian deaths.
Six people were also wounded, including one at the warehouse.
Ukraine`s military had on Thursday reported two soldiers killed as fierce fighting broke out around Donetsk airport, a wrecked shell repeatedly hit by battles but still of symbolic and strategic importance.
Rebels had claimed on Thursday to be on the verge of capturing the airport, but Ukraine`s military on Friday refuted their account while reporting a lull in the fighting overnight. There were however reports of fighting having broken out again in the morning.
Heavy artillery and shelling rocked the area around the airport on Thursday, forcing monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to turn back when attempting to approach it.
The OSCE mission warned of civilian casualties since attacks were being launched from within or around residential areas, drawing counter-fire. It said one of its patrols had come under direct fire from an unknown source in the area of the coastal city of Mariupol, but there was no damage or injuries.
Clashes around the airport have been part of a fresh wave of violence in recent days, serving as a reminder of the worst days of the war last summer.
On Tuesday, a rocket exploded near a commuter bus on its way to Donetsk, killing 13 people in the worst loss of civilian life in the conflict since a September truce that was meant to bring peace.
Both sides have traded blame for the bus tragedy, while President Petro Poroshenko, in a clear reference to Russia, said ultimate responsibility rested with "those whose hand feeds (the rebels) and arms them."
Russia, under sanctions from the West over its alleged actions in Ukraine, strongly denies sending troops and weapons into the war zone despite witness claims to the contrary.