World

6 killed as fighting heats up in eastern Ukraine despite cease-fire

  • Sept. 15, 2014 -Teacher shows the damage caused to her shell-hit kindergarten in Novosvitlivka, eastern Ukraine. The village was severely damaged during fighting between government troops and the separatist rebels that eventually took control there in late August.

    Sept. 15, 2014 -Teacher shows the damage caused to her shell-hit kindergarten in Novosvitlivka, eastern Ukraine. The village was severely damaged during fighting between government troops and the separatist rebels that eventually took control there in late August.  (AP)

  • Sept. 14, 2014 - A Pro-Russian rebel tank in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine. Shelling killed 6 people and wounded 15 others in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, the city council said -- the worst reported violence since a cease-fire between Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian troops took effect on Sept. 5.

    Sept. 14, 2014 - A Pro-Russian rebel tank in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine. Shelling killed 6 people and wounded 15 others in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, the city council said -- the worst reported violence since a cease-fire between Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian troops took effect on Sept. 5.  (AP)

  • A Pro-Russian rebels truck with an anti-aircraft weapon is driven in a parade in the town of Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. Some semblance of normality is returning to parts of eastern Ukraine after a cease-fire agreement sealed between Ukrainian government forces and separatist rebels earlier this month, although exchanges of rocket fire remain a constant in some areas. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    A Pro-Russian rebels truck with an anti-aircraft weapon is driven in a parade in the town of Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. Some semblance of normality is returning to parts of eastern Ukraine after a cease-fire agreement sealed between Ukrainian government forces and separatist rebels earlier this month, although exchanges of rocket fire remain a constant in some areas. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)  (The Associated Press)

Shelling killed six people and wounded 15 others in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, the city council said Monday -- the worst reported violence since a cease-fire between Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian troops took effect on Sept. 5.

Fighting around the eastern city's government-held airport has left its northern neighborhoods in the crossfire. Two northern neighborhoods were shelled heavily Sunday, leading to the casualties and damaging both homes and offices, the city council said.

Loud blasts could be heard from the direction of the airport all day Monday, and gunfire intermittently rang out downtown in the afternoon.

The Ukrainian government blamed the militants for the civilian casualties.

"Neither today, nor yesterday, nor in the previous days did Ukrainian forces shell any residential areas," said Lysenko.

Both the rebel and government sides have said they are rearming in case the fighting starts anew.

Ukraine and the West have repeatedly contended that Russia is fueling the separatist uprising with manpower, weapons and expertise, something that Moscow denies.

In an interview Monday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told The Associated Press that  "around 1,000" Russian soldiers remain in Ukraine.

"While the Russians may have withdrawn some of their troops in Ukraine, there is a still Russian military presence within Ukraine," Rasmussen said in Brussels, adding that several thousand Russian soldiers were also along the border with Ukraine.

Still, the cease-fire deal has brought some benefits. Another 73 Ukrainian soldiers were freed Sunday in exchange for 73 rebels, both sides reported Monday -- the largest prisoner exchange so far.

And in neighborhoods away from the Donetsk airport, many more people and cars were out in the streets than have been for weeks.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine began in mid-April, a month after Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. It has claimed at least 3,000 civilian lives, according to the U.N.