NEWS | Kyiv Raises Death Toll As 'Escalation' In Eastern Fighting Continues
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NEWS | Kyiv Raises Death Toll As 'Escalation' In Eastern Fighting Continues

 Image Attribute: Ukrainian battle tanks parked behind a building in Avdiyivka / © AP Photo/ Evgeniy Maloletka via Sputnik International

Image Attribute: Ukrainian battle tanks parked behind a building in Avdiyivka / © AP Photo/ Evgeniy Maloletka via Sputnik International

AVDIYIVKA, Ukraine -- Kyiv has warned that an escalation of fighting it blames on "Russian occupational forces" is continuing in eastern Ukraine, where residents say "nonstop" shelling overnight on February 2-3 was the worst of a six-day surge in the hostilities.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze's office said four Ukrainian soldiers died and 17 more were wounded in shelling on February 2.

It said one civilian and an emergency serviceman had also been killed and two other civilians injured. Shelling also reportedly damaged a school that was being used to provide heating for civilians in the government-controlled city of Avdiyivka.

Klympush-Tsintsadze's office cited 114 instances of shelling and said Russia-backed forces were "attacking throughout" the so-called line of contact and in areas near the cities of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Mariupol.

Locals in Avdiyivka, an industrial city near the separatist stronghold of Donetsk, told an RFE/RL correspondent on February 3 of spending the night in cellars under near-constant bombardment.

Overnight shelling could be heard from tens of kilometers away.

UN, EU, and other international officials have issued urgent pleas for negotiations to avoid a "catastrophe" as pro-Kyiv forces and Russia-backed separatists clash in a conflict that has killed more than 9,750 people since April 2014.

The United States' UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, on February 2 blamed "aggressive actions" by Russia for the fresh violence and reiterated Washington's commitment to keeping Western sanctions against Moscow in place.

Russia, which denies military involvement despite substantial evidence, has blamed Kyiv for the latest fighting.

With reporting by RFE/RL correspondents Christopher Miller in Avdiyivka and Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels

Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.