Fighting has surged in eastern Ukraine as government forces and pro-Russian rebels try
to make gains ahead of possible peace talks on Wednesday.
Separatist forces have carried out rocket attacks on a key military headquarters and a
residential area in Kramatorsk, officials say.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s volunteer Azov battalion has launched an offensive against
separatists around Mariupol.
More than 5,400 people have died since the conflict began last April.
The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany hope to meet in the Belarusian
capital Minsk on Wednesday to hammer out a peace deal after months of fighting.
Russia denies Western and Ukrainian accusations of sending troops and supplying the
rebels and has warned the West that sending arms to Ukraine would worsen the crisis.
US President Barack Obama said on Monday that he had not ruled out supplying “lethal
defensive weapons” to Ukraine if diplomacy failed.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told parliament on Tuesday that the government’s
military headquarters at Kramatorsk airfield had been shelled by rebels.
At least five people were killed and 16 wounded when a residential area was also hit, the
government-controlled Donetsk regional administration said. Ten people were injured at
the military base, it added.
Kramatorsk, some distance west of the current conflict zone, was the scene of major
fighting until July, when pro-Russian separatists retreated.
Local authorities said the rockets were fired from the rebel-controlled Horlivka area,
which is about 50km (30 miles) away from the city.
The separatists denied firing the rockets.
Julia Dzuba, a resident of Kramatorsk who caught the shelling on film as it neared the
apartment she lives in with her young child, told the BBC: “I was online, reading news,
and then I heard boom, boom!”
“This is much worse than last summer,” she said. “[T]hey are shooting at each other, and
we are the ones who suffer.”