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article imageShelling in Ukraine's Donetsk tears family apart

By Nicolas Gaudichet (AFP)     Aug 23, 2014 in World

Face covered in soot, a grandfather sits in front of the three bodies of his loved ones muttering again and again his lament.

They only stayed behind in Ukraine's war-torn city of Donetsk because of him, he mumbles. His failing health had not permitted them to get away when they could.

Their faces hastily covered with blankets, a man, a woman, and their 10-year-old daughter -- the old man's family -- lie motionless as their blood seeps into the earth.

"It was a father, mother, and their daughter," one neighbour said. Another younger daughter was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, and her condition was not known.

On this hot Saturday, the family was getting some fresh air outside their apartment building in the city when the shelling began, their neighbours said.

They rushed back inside for shelter, but did not make it in time.

Now gunmen - pro-Russian rebels who control the industrial hub - were checking their bodies for identification.

A wounded man hugs an elderly woman after a shelling in the main separatist stronghold in Donetsk  U...
A wounded man hugs an elderly woman after a shelling in the main separatist stronghold in Donetsk, Ukraine on August 23, 2014
Dimitar Dilkoff, AFP

Nearby, rescue workers were treating others injured in the blast, which tore a hole in the Soviet-era building.

A man with a bloodied face leaned against the back of an ambulance parked near the building, comforting a wailing elderly woman.

As the Ukrainian army tightens its deadly grip around rebel strongholds in eastern Ukraine, brutal bombardments are increasingly tearing through populated neighbourhoods.

In Donetsk, once a peaceful provincial city of one million people, a total of six civilians on Saturday lost their lives to shelling.

Emergency workers in the neighbourhood where the family lived - a tree-lined street not far from the railroad and the city's botanical gardens - were now struggling to repair trolleybus lines and putting out fires gutting a row of garages.

Earlier, blasts shook two other neighbourhoods north and southwest of the city centre. Two people waiting at a bus stop were killed on the spot, while another died on his way to the hospital, local officials said.

For the first time since the beginning of the crisis, shells also damaged the city's state-of-the-art Donbass Arena football stadium.

A venue that hosted throngs of foreign fans during the Euro 2012 championships, it was the home of Shakhtar Donetsk, Ukraine's top team, until the club was forced to pack up and flee the fighting.

Insurgents and Kiev's army have traded blame over who is behind the deadly strikes against residential neighbourhoods.

Heavy artillery and mortar fire has killed hundreds of people in urban areas in recent weeks.

Human rights organisations have blamed both sides for using heavy weapons against civilian areas and say it amounts to war crimes in Ukraine's increasingly bloody conflict.

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