Severe fuel shortages have hit the rebel-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine.

Several residents of the rebel stronghold Donetsk told The Associated Press on Thursday that only a few gas stations remained open in what was once a city of half a million people. Prices for gasoline have skyrocketed by a third and drivers are reported to spend days queuing for gas.

More than 8,000 people have been killed in a military conflict between government forces and Russia-backed separatists in the east since fighting began in April 2014.

Rebel leaders sought to play down the fuel crisis, saying that the shortages are insignificant and caused by hoarding. The separatists in September seized energy assets owned by Ukrainian tycoon Serhiy Kurchenko who was believed to control the fuel market there.