Kiev/Moscow, July 14 (IANS/EFE) Dozens of people, including civilians and soldiers, have died in the past 24 hours amid heavy clashes between government forces and pro-Russian separatist in eastern Ukraine as civilians flee the conflict zone for safer areas in neighbouring Russia.

At least nine civilians died Monday in the eastern rebel-held city of Donetsk in heavy artillery fire which both sides attributed to each other.

Local administration officials said there had also been several dead and injured among the civilian population in the town of Maryinka, near the Donetsk neighbourhood of Petrovski that came under artillery fire.

Twelve other civilians were killed over the past 24 hours in Mariynka when their homes were shelled and another three died in the eastern town of Lugansk, which has also been the target of artillery fire.

Nearly 30,400 Ukrainians have fled the separatist conflict in Ukraine and have formally sought refugee status in Russia, while 130,000 have requested to extend their stay in the country, the Russian Federal Migration Service announced Monday.

The rebels said 30 of their militias died Sunday when Ukrainian forces bombed Alexandrovka, on the border with Russia.

They also claimed they had downed a Ukrainian military transport aircraft Monday in the border town of Izvarino.

Ukrainian forces admitted they had lost contact with the aircraft, which carried 20 people.

Russian Foreign Minister Serguei Lavrov and Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe Secretary General Didier Burkhalter called Monday for an unconditional ceasefire as the fighting intensified, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry statement.

Violence has resurged since a unilateral ceasefire declared by the government expired July 1 and Ukrainian troops have since recovered the rebel bastions of Slaviansk and Kramatorsk, in the region of Donetsk.

Poroshenko Monday announced a change in tactics and reduced the area of the government offensive in order to strengthen border defence and protect the civilian population.

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has said he will not call a new truce unless rebels end hostilities, release hostages and control over the border with Russia is restored.



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