At least ten civilians have been killed in new fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists around the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk in east Ukraine, local officials say.

Six people were killed in shelling and gunfire on the outskirts of Donetsk, Deputy Mayor Kostantyn Savinov said on Sunday, while city officials said three others were killed in shelling of Luhansk over the previous 24 hours. Officials in the frontline rebel base of Gorlivka reported one dead and 16 hurt in clashes there.

Witnesses told Reuters news agency several buildings, including a school, caught fire in the outlying Petrovsky district.

Many residents of Luhansk, which is close to the border with Russia, have no electricity and some are without water, the city administration's press office said.

Advances by the Ukrainian army have forced the rebels out of most of the towns they had occupied in Russian-speaking east Ukraine and squeezed them mainly into Luhansk and Donetsk.

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The Ukrainian military said it had suffered no losses in the latest fighting.

Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, in which in the UN says more than 1,100 people have been killed, have stalled.

The US and the EU have imposed sanctions on Russia, saying it has not used its influence with the separatists to end the fighting, but Russia denies arming the rebels or orchestrating the conflict.

The fighting has intensified in east Ukraine since the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in rebel-held territory on July 17, killing 298 people.

Dutch and Australian forensic experts and police planned to continue recovery work at the site of the downed Malaysian airliner by examining debris in the village of Rozsypne, a few kilometres from the main wreckage.

The US says the separatists probably shot down the Boeing 777 by mistake with a Russian-supplied missile.

Russia denies the accusation and blames the disaster on Ukraine's government.

Roads to the crash site were for days too dangerous to use because of fighting, but the experts finally got there on Friday and hope to recover the last of the victims' remains.

The victims included 196 Dutch, 27 Australians and 43 Malaysians.

Shelling nearby forced the experts to stop their search for human remains on Saturday in one area where debris was found, but they were able to work unhindered at the main site.

Source: Agencies