Shelling in rebel-held Ukrainian city kills 4

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Shelling in rebel-held Ukrainian city kills 4
People sit in the Vishnevskiy hospital basement which is being used a shelter after shelling at the hospital in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A mortar hit the Vishnevskiy hospital in the troubled Ukrainian city of Donetsk Thursday, killing at least one person, as government forces tighten their grip on the pro-Russian rebel stronghold. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A Pro-Russian rebel inspects the damage after shelling in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Fighting in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk claimed more civilian casualties, bringing new calls from Russian nationalists for President Vladimir Putin to send in the army. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A local resident passes by damage after shelling in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Fighting in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk claimed more civilian casualties, bringing new calls from Russian nationalists for President Vladimir Putin to send in the army. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Patients sit in a basement being used as a bomb-shelter at Vishnevskiy hospital after shelling in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A mortar hit the Vishnevskiy hospital in the troubled Ukrainian city of Donetsk Thursday, killing at least one person, as government forces tighten their grip on the pro-Russian rebel stronghold. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A boy hugs his mother as they sit in the Vishnevskiy hospital basement which is being used a shelter after shelling at the hospital in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A mortar hit the Vishnevskiy hospital in the troubled Ukrainian city of Donetsk Thursday, killing at least one person, as government forces tighten their grip on the pro-Russian rebel stronghold. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A medical worker inspects the damage in the dental unit Vishnevskiy Hospital at after shelling in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. A mortar hit the Vishnevskiy hospital in the troubled Ukrainian city of Donetsk Thursday, killing at least one person, as government forces tighten their grip on the pro-Russian rebel stronghold. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Local residents cry and hug each other as they sit in a hospital basement being used as a bomb-shelter after shelling, in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Fighting in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk claimed more civilian casualties, bringing new calls from Russian nationalists for President Vladimir Putin to send in the army. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A Pro-Russian rebel wipes his head as he inspects the damage after shelling in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Fighting in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk claimed more civilian casualties, bringing new calls from Russian nationalists for President Vladimir Putin to send in the army. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A local resident displays fragments of a shell after shelling in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Fighting in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk claimed more civilian casualties, bringing new calls from Russian nationalists for President Vladimir Putin to send in the army. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A local resident reacts as he inspects the damage after shelling in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Fighting in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk claimed more civilian casualties, bringing new calls from Russian nationalists for President Vladimir Putin to send in the army . (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Relatives react at a coffin with the body of Kyril Andrienko, commander of special team of Ukrainian Forces, who died during the anti-terrorists operation (ATO) in the east of Ukraine during the funeral ceremony in Lviv on August 7, 2014. Shelling rocked the area around a key rebel base in the centre of the insurgent bastion of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, city authorities said. AFP PHOTO/ YURKO DYACHYSHYN (Photo credit should read YURKO DYACHYSHYN/AFP/Getty Images)
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By Yuras Karmanau and Peter Leonard

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) - Sustained shelling in the main rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine struck residential buildings and a hospital, killing at least four people and wounding 10 others, officials said, as government forces pressed forward in their campaign to rout the separatists.

Mortar fire struck the Vishnevskiy Hospital in Donetsk on Thursday morning, killing one and wounding five others, Donetsk city council spokesman Maxim Rovensky told The Associated Press.

"There was a sudden explosion," witness Dr. Anna Kravtsova said. "A mortar round flew through the window."

The shelling, which destroyed an array of equipment in the dentistry unit, also hit three nearby apartment buildings.

It followed a night of shelling in another neighborhood as the fighting between the government and pro-Russian separatists is inching ever closer to the city center. The mayor's office said in a statement posted on its website that three people had been killed, five wounded and several residential buildings destroyed during those attacks.

The government denies it uses artillery against residential areas, but that claim has come under substantial strain in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have been fighting the Kiev government since April. Ukraine and Western countries have accused Moscow of backing the mutiny with weapons and soldiers, a claim the Russian government has repeatedly denied.

The West has also accused Russia of most likely providing the insurgents with surface-to-air missiles that may have been used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over rebel-held territory on July 17, killing all 298 people on board.

Clashes erupted in central Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, as city authorities sought to clear away the remnants of a tent colony erected by demonstrators involved in the street uprising against pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych. At the time, protesters were angry about endemic corruption and wanted closer ties with the European Union.

In scenes reminiscent of that revolt, which climaxed with Yanukovych's ouster in February, demonstrators set alight tires in their face-off against a volunteer battalion overseeing the clean-up operation.

In eastern Ukraine, government troops have made tentative progress in their strategy to retake Donetsk and other towns and cities. Armed forces have refrained from pitched urban battles, and instead favored pushing back their opponents with artillery fire. It has led to a growing number of civilians casualties.

Vishnevskiy Hospital, one of the city's larger medical treatment facilities, is around 4 kilometers (less than 3 miles) from the main square. It has been used to provide treatment to civilian victims of the ongoing conflict.

"The hospital became a nightmare. This is absurd," said 37-year old patient Dmitry Kozhur. "We came here to keep living, but now we are risking death."

Kozhur said he now wants to join the 300,000 people that the mayor's office says have already abandoned the once 1 million-person strong city.

As AP reporters were leaving the hospital, they heard the sound of four rounds of artillery being fired from a nearby neighborhood under rebel control. Although it wasn't immediately possible to confirm the sequence of events, it appeared that the shells that hit the hospital may have been a response to rebel fire.

Neighbors of a house struck by rockets Wednesday said their homes were also near a position used by rebel artillery forces.

As the rebels struggle to push back Kiev's forces, fears of Russian intervention have grown. Western leaders have accused Russia of massing troops on the border with Ukraine and supplying rebels with weapons..

"We've noted with concern a new quality and quantity of arms and equipment flowing across the border from Russia into Ukraine, reports of shelling across the border as well as further attacks by illegal armed groups on targets in eastern Ukraine," said Sebastien Brabant, a spokesman for the EU's foreign policy chief.

Russia has always denied such claims

The Ukrainian army strategy has focused on driving a wedge between Donetsk and the other main stronghold of Luhansk. Efforts to seal off the border with Russia have been thwarted as border troops come under sustained and heavy rocket fire. Ukraine says a lot of those attacks have been carried out by Russian troops, which Moscow also fervently denies.

In Kiev, demonstrators confronted city workers clearing a main square of long-standing barricades in a standoff that turned violent. A group of men set light to fuel-drenched tires and remonstrated with armed men from a pro-government battalion charged with protecting clean-up workers.

Dark plumes of acrid smoke from burning rubber rose above Independence Square as workers in high-visibility vests worked fast to dismantle barricades surrounding the main stage.

The square and surrounding streets were the site of huge winter protests that led to Yanukovych's ouster. Despite the election in May of a successor - 48-year old billionaire confectionery tycoon Petro Poroshenko - many said they would continue to squat on the square to ensure the new authorities lived up to their promise to usher in an era of transparent and accountable rule.

Many Kiev residents have fumed over the months-long sit-in, however, complaining that it severely disrupts traffic and blights the city's main thoroughfare.

City authorities have been negotiating with the protesters to clear the square since a new mayor was elected, but have met strong resistance from the several hundred demonstrators still camped out there.

While many barricades were removed Thursday, numerous tents remain in place.

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