DONETSK, June 9 (RIA Novosti) - The eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk in the Donetsk region, which has become the epicenter of intense fighting between the Ukrainian army and local independence supporters, suffered significant damage during shelling Sunday.
For the first time since punitive operations began in April, a shootout was reported within the city limits ending in casualties, a source in the city council told RIA Novosti Monday.
"Sunday's shelling was especially tense. It was over only late at night," a representative of the city council said. Both the suburbs of the city and its center were targeted by the attack.
The Ukrainian army reportedly used a multiple rocket launcher.
Shells damaged a dome of one of the churches, the city council building, and a house near the office of the Ukrainian Security Service. Several workshops, hospitals and schools were partially destroyed. A gas pipeline was also damaged.
Semyonovka, an eastern suburb of Slaviansk, suffered the most. According to witnesses, there is not a single undamaged building left there.
According to preliminary reports, at least five independence supporters and civilians, including a small girl and an elderly man, died in the attack. The shelling also left many injured.
Civilians are hiding in basements and bomb shelters. People are continuing to flee the city.
Igor Strelkov, leader of the Slaviansk self-defense forces, told RIA Novosti, that "the situation is hopeless."
"There is no reinforcement and, apparently, it is not expected," he added.
In response to mass anti-government protests in the southeastern regions of Ukraine, the authorities in Kiev launched a military operation in mid-April to quell the uprising. The operation, repeatedly condemned by Russia, has claimed dozens of civilian victims.
In regard to the peaceful resolution of the conflict during his first meeting after being inaugurated, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that a ceasefire in the eastern regions must take effect as early as this week.