Civilians were killed on both sides in heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine on Friday, while an attempt to reopen peace talks in neighboring Belarus was aborted before it began.
Rebel delegates flew to the Belarus capital Minsk, only to announce that no talks would take place on Friday and they were flying straight back to Moscow. Any talks would be the first since a five-month-old ceasefire collapsed with a new rebel advance last week.
The main rebel stronghold Donetsk echoed to the sound of heavy artillery fire, including salvoes from multiple rocket launchers and heavier thuds from artillery coming from the direction of the airport, a constant battlefield.
A Reuters cameraman in Donetsk saw four covered bodies near a cultural center that had been hit by artillery while residents were queuing outside for humanitarian aid. A fifth body lay in a badly-damaged car nearby. A woman was weeping by one of the bodies. A kilometer (half mile) away, a sixth dead person lay where a trolleybus had been hit.
The separatists said the total death toll in those two strikes was seven, blaming government forces. Kiev said the shelling was carried out by the rebels to ruin the chance of peace talks. Both sides have made similar allegations throughout the conflict, which are impossible to verify.
"We are already used to this artillery and there's nothing we can do about it. Our boys are defending us," said Alla, a shopkeeper in downtown Donetsk.
In Debaltseve, east of Donetsk, seven civilians were killed on Friday by separatist shelling of their homes, regional police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin said in a Facebook post. Earlier he reported another seven civilians killed in and around the town in the previous 24 hours. The government-held town is a key rail and road junction in the east. It and nearby Vuhlehirsk have come under fierce attack from rebels encircling government garrisons there, with water and electricity supplies cut off.