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Video: Ukrainians mourn civilians killed in conflict

SERGEI SUPINSKY, AFP I A boy holds a sign reading "I am Ukraine'' during a gathering on Independence Square in Kiev on January 18, 2015, to pay tribute to civilians killed in the Ukraine conflict.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Kiev Sunday to honour 13 people who died when a bus was hit by a shell in the eastern Ukrainian town of Volnovakha, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concerns over the escalation in fighting.

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The bus explosion in the eastern Donetsk region is the worst instance of loss of civilian life since a truce was signed between Russia and Ukraine last September.

The spike in civilian casualties, which both Russia and Ukraine blame on each other, came as Ukrainian troops upped their fight to retake territory lost to the rebels in recent weeks.

President Petro Poroshenko addressed the crowd assembled in Kiev’s Independence Square, the epicentre of protests that forced out Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovich last year, saying that his troops were advancing on the rebel strongholds of Donetsk and Donbass.

“We will not give up an inch of Ukrainian land. We will take back Donbass. We will restore the Ukrainian nation there,” Poroshenko said. “We will win our struggle for peace.”

Heavy shelling rocked the city of Donetsk over the weekend, with Ukraine declaring it had pushed back pro-Russian rebels from most of the airport - regaining territory they'd lost to the rebel forces in recent weeks.

Residents were caught in the crossfire and many homes were destroyed. At least 14 people died in fierce fighting this weekend including four Ukrainian soldiers.

The UN Secretary-General voiced concerns over the escalation in the fighting, saying that it threatened to completely unravel the September 2014 ceasefire. He called for "an immediate and full cessation of hostilities."

The Security Council is due to discuss the worsening crisis in Ukraine at a meeting on Wednesday, requested by Lithuania.

The conflict between pro-Russian rebels and Kiev government forces has killed more than 4,800 people since April last year and has become Europe's worst humanitarian crisis since the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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