Kiev/Hague : Ukrainian government troops over the past 24 hours heavily bombarded two key rebel cities under siege in eastern Ukraine, Gorlovka and Donetsk, killing 44 civilians and forcing government offices to be evacuated.

Seventeen civilians, including three children, were killed and 43 others were injured in artillery fire in Gorlovka, Efe news agency reported citing the town council, according to IANS.

The Ukrainian military leadership announced that its forces were besieging the city, which had 250,000 inhabitants before fighting broke out earlier this year with pro-Russian separatists controlling the area.

Gorlovka is only 20 km away from the city of Donetsk, the stronghold of the militias, where a downtown government building was evacuated Tuesday due to intense artillery fire, including the offices of the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexandr Borodai.”Two shells fell on residential buildings,” killing one person and wounding three others, and several hit targets near Vishnesvski hospital, said the press office of the separatists, cited by the Russian news agency Interfax.

A curfew is in force in Donetsk, from where tens of thousands of people have fled in the last weeks. Ten Ukrainian troopers were also killed in the past 24 hours in fighting with the rebels, and more than 50 were wounded.

Government troops have intensified their offensive on rebel positions in the last days in an attempt to open a secure corridor for international investigators trying to reach the site of the July 17 crash of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane with 298 people on board.

Once the area is secured, the Netherlands and Australia, the two countries which had the largest number of passengers on board flight MH17, will deploy a police mission to protect the experts. Meanwhile a Xinhua report said that in town of Yasynovata, at least four people were killed and seven others wounded in an air strike on a building.

Fighting again stops MH17 investigators: official

Fighting between Kiev forces and pro-Russian separatists prevented international investigators reaching the MH17 crash site in Ukraine for the third day running, the Dutch justice ministry said, reports AFP.”The group of Dutch and Australian experts did not leave Donetsk for the crash site in east Ukraine. There is currently too much fighting on and around the road to the crash site,” the ministry said in a statement. The Dutch and Australian police mission needs access to the site to recover the remains of some of the 298 victims still lying in the fields.

(To view our epaper please click here. For all the latest News, Mumbai, Entertainment, Cricket, Business and Featured News updates, visit Free Press Journal. Also, follow us on Twitter and Instagram and do like our Facebook page for continuous updates on the go)

Free Press Journal