Death toll mounts as clashes intensify in Ukraine

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Fighting at MH17 crash site
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Death toll mounts as clashes intensify in Ukraine
People walk across a damaged bridge near the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
An Ukrainian government army's soldier stands guard next to the cars of Convoy of the OSCE mission in Ukraine at a check-point in the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine Thursday, July 31, 2014. Members of the OSCE mission in Ukraine are attempting to reach a place of Malaysia Airlines plane crash.(AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
A car travels past an Ukrainian government army vehicle near the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
An Ukrainian government army' vehicle travels across a damaged bridge near the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
An Ukrainian government army's soldier gestures at a check-point in the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine Thursday, July 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
An Ukrainian government army's soldier stands guard at a check-point in the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine Thursday, July 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
A Ukrainian soldier gestures as he controls traffic on July 31, 2014 at a check-point in the village of Debaltseve, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine. Dutch and Australian experts accompanied by a team of international monitors reached today the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 after days of fierce fighting that had stopped them reaching the area, had prevented them to determine the reason why the Boeing 777 crashed on July 17 with 298 people on board, and recover unaccounted for remains. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
People wait to cross a damaged bridge on July 31, 2014 near the village of Debaltseve, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine. With hazards including blown-up railway bridges and unexploded shells and mines, the route chosen by international investigators to reach the MH17 crash site on Thursday was fraught with risks. The team-- containing Dutch and Australian experts, as well as monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) -- left Donetsk early morning on July 31 moving in a convoy of three white SUVs with the OSCE logo on the sides and the roof. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
A Ukrainian soldier stands guard with a Ukrainian flag behind him, on July 31, 2014 at a check-point in the village of Debaltseve, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine. Dutch and Australian experts accompanied by a team of international monitors reached today the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 after days of fierce fighting that had stopped them reaching the area, had prevented them to determine the reason why the Boeing 777 crashed on July 17 with 298 people on board, and recover unaccounted for remains. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian soldiers stand guard near their humvee and military truck on July 31, 2014 at a check-point in the village of Debaltseve, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine. Dutch and Australian experts accompanied by a team of international monitors reached today the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 after days of fierce fighting that had stopped them reaching the area, had prevented them to determine the reason why the Boeing 777 crashed on July 17 with 298 people on board, and recover unaccounted for remains. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian soldiers stand guard on July 31, 2014 near the convoy of the OSCE (the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) during their mission to reach the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, at a check-point in the village of Debaltseve, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine. Dutch and Australian experts accompanied by a team of international monitors reached today the crash site after days of fierce fighting that had stopped them reaching the area, had prevented them to determine the reason why the Boeing 777 crashed on July 17 with 298 people on board, and recover unaccounted for remains. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian soldiers stand guard near their tank on July 31, 2014 at a check-point in the village of Debaltseve, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine. Dutch and Australian experts accompanied by a team of international monitors reached today the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 after days of fierce fighting that had stopped them reaching the area, had prevented them to determine the reason why the Boeing 777 crashed on July 17 with 298 people on board, and recover unaccounted for remains. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian troops patrol near the village of Novoselovka, some 30 kms from the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, on July 31, 2014. Explosions rang out near the crash site of downed flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine as international investigators arrived for the first time in nearly a week after Kiev announced a surprise one-day halt to its offensive against rebels.AFP PHOTO/ GENYA SAVILOV (Photo credit should read GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer stands guard as a woman walks past pieces of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in the village of Petropavlivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
FILE - This July 19, 2014, file photo shows pro-Russian fighter guarding the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine. Ukraine said the passenger plane was shot down as it flew over the country, killing all 298 people on board. A series of unanswered questions about the downing of the flight shows the limits of U.S. intelligence-gathering even when it is intensely focused, as it has been in Ukraine since Russia seized Crimea in March. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File)
A Ukrainian volunteer of Donbas Battalion holds up weapons captured from rebels in the city of Lisichansk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine Saturday, July 26, 2014. Volunteers from the Donbas Battalion, a volunteer militia for a united Ukraine, told The Associated Press their units, along with the Ukrainian army, regained control of Lisichansk on Friday. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
A pro-Russian fighters' APC stands abandoned near the city of Lisichansk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine Saturday, July 26, 2014. Volunteers from the Donbas Battalion, a volunteer militia for a united Ukraine, told The Associated Press their units, along with the Ukrainian army, regained control of Lisichansk on Friday. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Ukrainian government army soldiers patrol in the city of Lisichansk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine Saturday, July 26, 2014. Volunteers from the Donbas Battalion, a volunteer militia for a united Ukraine, told The Associated Press their units, along with the Ukrainian army, regained control of Lisichansk on Friday. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
File - This July 17, 2014, file photo shows people walking amongst burning debris at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine. Ukraine said the passenger plane was shot down as it flew over the country, killing all 298 people on board. A series of unanswered questions about the downing the flight shows the limits of U.S. intelligence-gathering even when it is intensely focused, as it has been in Ukraine since Russia seized Crimea in March. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File)
Damage inflicted where a missile punched, two days before, a gaping hole in the wall of Alexander Litvinenko's ninth-floor apartment, in Donetsk, Ukraine. The 53-year-old college philosophy teacher had just stepped into his study to check the news online, barely escaping death. Others in the residential neighborhood in northwest Donetsk were less fortunate. Five civilians were killed and 12 injured in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels on Monday, according to the mayor’s office. Residents in the rebel-held city are blaming Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has promised to stamp out the uprising in the eastern part of the country. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Children walk past a piece of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines jet downed over Ukraine, in Petropavlivka village, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine Wednesday, July 23, 2014. TIndependent military analysts said Wednesday that the size, spread, shape and number of shrapnel impacts visible in an AP photograph of a piece of the wreckage all point to a missile system like the SA-11 Buk. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
In this framegrab made from a video provided by press service of the rebel Donetsk People's Republic and icorpus.ru, pro-Russians collect parts of the burning debris of a Ukrainian military fighter jet, shot down at Savur Mogila, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Two Ukrainian military Sukhoi-25 fighters have been shot down in the east, according to the country's Defense Ministry. (AP Photo/icorpus.ru, Press Service of the rebel Donetsk People's Republic)
Police officers secure a refrigerated train loaded with bodies of the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 as it arrives in a Kharkiv factory for a stop on Tuesday, July 22, 2014. The train carrying the remains of people killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash arrived in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Tuesday on their way to the Netherlands, a journey which has been agonizingly slow for relatives of the victims. (AP Photo/Olga Ivashchenko)
Ukrainian Ministry Emergency officer, left, Donetsk People's Republic fighter, 2nd left, and members of the OSCE mission in Ukraine examine a map as they discuss the situation around the site of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Sunday, July 27, 2014. A team of international police officers that had been due to visit the site of the Malaysian plane disaster in eastern Ukraine cancelled the trip Sunday after receiving reports of fighting in the area. Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the OSCE in Europe, said it would be too dangerous for the unarmed mission to travel to the site from its current location in the rebel-held city of Donetsk. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Dutch, right, and Australian policemen talk in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Sunday, July 27, 2014. A team of international police officers that had been due to visit the site of the Malaysian plane disaster in eastern Ukraine cancelled the trip Sunday after receiving reports of fighting in the area. Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the OSCE in Europe, said it would be too dangerous for the unarmed mission to travel to the site from its current location in the rebel-held city of Donetsk. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Dutch policemen walk in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Sunday, July 27, 2014. A team of international police officers that had been due to visit the site of the Malaysian plane disaster in eastern Ukraine cancelled the trip Sunday after receiving reports of fighting in the area. Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the OSCE in Europe, said it would be too dangerous for the unarmed mission to travel to the site from its current location in the rebel-held city of Donetsk. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Dutch investigators examine pieces of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in the village of Rassipne, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Dutch policemen walk to their cars in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Sunday, July 27, 2014. A team of international police officers that had been due to visit the site of the Malaysian plane disaster in eastern Ukraine cancelled the trip Sunday after receiving reports of fighting in the area. Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the OSCE in Europe, said it would be too dangerous for the unarmed mission to travel to the site from its current location in the rebel-held city of Donetsk. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Dutch and Australian investigators along with members of the OSCE mission in Ukraine examine pieces of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in the village of Petropavlivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
A pro-Russian rebel throws a hat to his comrade to keep uniform formality as the convoy of the OSCE mission in Ukraine approaches to a check-point near the village of Rassipne, near the scene of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
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By PETER LEONARD
Associated Press

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- At least eight civilians have been killed by fighting and shelling in two Ukrainian cities held by separatist militants, officials in the rebellion-wracked east said Monday.

Authorities in Luhansk that five people were killed and 15 injured by overnight artillery strikes. Three were killed in Donetsk as a result of clashes, the city's government said.

Territory between the cities has seen intensified fighting as government troops try to gain control over the area where a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed earlier this month.

Dutch and Australian police set off for the crash site Monday morning in a convoy of 20 cars, aiming to secure the area so that investigations can continue and any remaining bodies can be recovered.

Both sides in the conflict have traded accusations over the mounting civilian death toll. The armed conflict that has been raging for more than three months has displaced more than 200,000 people.

Rebels accuse government troops of deploying artillery against residential areas. Authorities deny that charge, but also complain of insurgents using apartment blocks as firing positions.

The U.S. State Department on Sunday released satellite images that it says back up its claims that rockets have been fired from Russia into eastern Ukraine and heavy artillery for separatists has also crossed the border.

State Releases Images It Says Show Russia Fired on Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the claims Monday during a televised press conference, asking "why it took ten days" before the U.S. released the images.

A four-page document released by the State Department appears to show blast marks from where rockets were launched and craters where they landed. Officials said the images, sourced from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, show heavy weapons fired between July 21 and July 26 - after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

The images could not be independently verified by The Associated Press.

Lavrov said he is expecting OSCE observers to arrive at the Russian-Ukrainian border "in the coming days." He said they would see that accusations rebels are traveling freely into Ukraine from Russia are false.

Ukrainian officials have said the mission is largely pointless because it involves only about two dozen observers monitoring the 2,000 kilometer (1,240-mile) border between the two countries.

19 PHOTOS
Downed plane could alter course of Ukraine flight
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Death toll mounts as clashes intensify in Ukraine
FILE - In this July 17, 2014 file photo, people inspect the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Hrabove, Ukraine. The downing of the jet could prove to be a turning point in the country's conflict. But which way it turns depends mainly on who carried out the attack and how convincingly it can be proved to the world. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Remnants of a downed Ukrainian army aircraft Il-76 at the airport near Luhansk, Ukraine, Saturday, June 14, 2014. Pro-Russian separatists shot down the military transport plane Saturday in the country’s restive east, killing all 49 service personnel on board, Ukrainian officials said. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A pro-Russian fighter carries parts of weapons from the site of remnants of a downed Ukrainian army aircraft Il-76 at the airport near Luhansk, Ukraine, Saturday, June 14, 2014. Pro-Russian separatists shot down the military transport plane Saturday in the country’s restive east, killing all 49 service personnel on board, Ukrainian officials said. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 18: Search and rescue team search for human remains amongst the wreckages of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it was downed close to Russia's border with Ukraine on July 17, 2014, near the town of Donetsk, Ukraine on July 18, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 18: People prepare white ribbon tied to a stick which indicates the presence of human remains, amongst the wreckages of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it was downed close to Russia's border with Ukraine on July 17, 2014, near the town of Donetsk, Ukraine on July 18, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONESTK, UKRAINE - JULY 18: A monkey toy is seen amongst the wreckages of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it was downed close to Russia's border with Ukraine on July 17, 2014, near the town of Donetsk, Ukraine on July 18, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
People gather next to a sign reading AIDS 2014 in Melbourne on July 18, 2014 after news that downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was carrying many participants headed to the 20th International AIDS Conference planned this weekend in the Australian city. The world AIDS community was in mourning on July 18 with as many as 100 passengers reportedly on the crashed Malaysia Airlines plane heading to Australia for the global conference on the epidemic. Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, which US officials believe was hit by a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 people on board, was due to connect with another flight to Melbourne. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 18: A part of plane is seen amongst the wreckages of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it was downed close to Russia's border with Ukraine on July 17, 2014, near the town of Donetsk, Ukraine on July 18, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
People lay flowers and light candles in front of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kiev on July 17, 2014, to commemorate passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur which crashed in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on July 17 that the Malaysia Airlines jet that crashed over rebel-held eastern Ukraine may have been shot down.' Ukraine's government and pro-Russian insurgents traded blame for the disaster, with comments attributed to a rebel commander suggesting his men may have downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by mistake, believing it was a Ukrainian army transport plane. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
A man lights a candle in front of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kiev on July 17, 2014, to commemorate passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur which crashed in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on July 17 that the Malaysia Airlines jet that crashed over rebel-held eastern Ukraine may have been shot down.' Ukraine's government and pro-Russian insurgents traded blame for the disaster, with comments attributed to a rebel commander suggesting his men may have downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by mistake, believing it was a Ukrainian army transport plane. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman lights a candle near a placard reading 'Stop Russian terrorism!' in front of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kiev on July 17, 2014 to commemorate passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur which crashed in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on July 17 that the Malaysia Airlines jet that crashed over rebel-held eastern Ukraine may have been shot down.' Ukraine's government and pro-Russian insurgents traded blame for the disaster, with comments attributed to a rebel commander suggesting his men may have downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by mistake, believing it was a Ukrainian army transport plane. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative of passengers on flight MH17 wipes his eyes as he waits in a bus to be transported to an unknown location to receive more information, at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, Thursday, July 17, 2014. Ukraine said a passenger plane carrying 295 people was shot down Thursday as it flew over the country, and both the government and the pro-Russia separatists fighting in the region denied any responsibility for downing the plane. (AP Photo/Phil Nijhuis)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 18: A temporary memorial for the 298 victims of shot down Malaysian jetliner Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur the previous evening is seen outside of the embassy of the Netherlands, on July 18, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed killing all 298 on board including 80 children. The aircraft was allegedly shot down by a missile and investigations continue over the perpetrators of the attack. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Alexander Hug, (R) Deputy Chief Monitor of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe's (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, talks with a Pro-Russian separatist at the site of the crash of a Malaysian airliner carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in Grabove, in rebel-held east Ukraine, on July 18, 2014. Members of the UN Security Council demanded a full, independent investigation into the apparent shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
Alexander Hug, (2R) Deputy Chief Monitor of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe's (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine and members of his team wait to visit the site of the crash of a Malaysian airliner carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in Grabove, in rebel-held east Ukraine, on July 18, 2014. Members of the UN Security Council demanded a full, independent investigation into the apparent shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
People laiy flowers and light candles in front of the Netherlands Embassy in Kiev on July 18, 2014 in tribute for the 298 people who died after flight MH17 of Malaysia Airlines crashed in rebel-held east Ukraine. The Boeing 777 came down in cornfields in the separatist-held region yesterday, spraying debris and body parts for kilometres around, with the United States claiming it was shot down in a missile attack. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
A piece of wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is pictured on July 18, 2014 in Shaktarsk, the day after it crashed. Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, which US officials believe was hit by a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman lays flowers near a sign reading 'Putin kills children' in front of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kiev on July 18, 2014 to pay tribute to the 298 people who died after flight MH17 of Malaysia Airlines crashed in rebel-held east Ukraine. The Boeing 777 came down in cornfields in the separatist-held region yesterday, spraying debris and body parts for kilometres around, with the United States claiming it was shot down in a missile attack. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Huib Gorter, senior vice-president of Malaysia Airlines, speaks at a press conference at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, Thursday, July 17, 2014. An official with Malaysia Airlines says at least one Canadian was among the 295 people aboard a passenger plane that was downed today over Ukraine. Gorter says 154 people were Dutch, 27 were Australians, 23 were Malaysians, 11 were Indonesian, 6 were from the United Kingdom, 4 were from Germany, 4 were from Belgium, and 3 were from the Philippines. Gorter says authorities are still trying to determine the nationalities of the rest of the passengers. (AP Photo/Phil Nijhuis)
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