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Donetsk, Ukraine: Ukraine on Monday accused pro-Russian rebels of killing dozens of civilians fleeing the war-torn east, as crisis talks between Kiev and Moscow failed to halt months of bloodshed.

Kiev’s military said insurgents using Russia-supplied weapons shelled adults and children in a convoy with white flags on a road from the restive city of Luhansk, leading to “dozens of dead".

The allegations came after five hours of crisis talks in Berlin brought no consensus on how to end the conflict, and President Petro Poroshenko said Kiev was pressing on with its drive to oust rebels, having “laid siege to cities most controlled" by them.

Ukraine’s security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said insurgents deliberately targeted the civilians, whose transport was clearly marked, adding that the exact number of casualties was still unclear.

“The convoy had white flags and were marked as civilian," he said at a briefing. Kiev believes it was shelled from mortar guns and Grad rocket systems supplied from Russia and was “completely destroyed."

“We ask that any videos from the scene are not released to the public, because they are atrocious," he added.

Luhansk has been the hardest-hit city still controlled by rebels, where water and power have been cut off for more than two weeks.

The rebel leader of neighbouring “Donetsk People’s Republic", Alexander Zakharchenko, flatly denied any attacks on civilians.

“Not a single convoy of refugees was shot at in the Luhansk region," he told journalists at a briefing.

No Ceasefire

A marathon meeting in Berlin between the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany broke up without agreement on how to end more than four months of conflict that has killed over 2,100 people and left the region facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Moscow has demanded that Ukraine government forces halt an offensive against main separatist strongholds, while Kiev accuses Russia of pouring in more arms to save the unravelling insurgency.

“One place where we cannot report positive results is in... establishing a ceasefire and (starting) a political process," Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov said after the talks with Ukraine’s Pavlo Klimkin, France’s Laurent Fabius and Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The Ukrainian presidency said on Monday evening that rebel boasts of receiving Russia-trained fighters and various weaponry including tanks forced Kiev to “look at the military operation in new light" and “continue the offensive".

The army will strive to fragment the rebel territory to keep the flow of weapons out, Poroshenko’s office quoted him as saying.

Zakharchenko last week said his troops had gotten a fresh injection of 1,200 fighters “trained in Russia", though Moscow was quick to deny sending any help to the insurgency across the porous frontier.

Struggle Without Water

Fierce fighting centred around the second-largest rebel bastion Luhansk over the weekend as Kiev said its troops had battled their way into an outlying suburb.

Nine soldiers were killed in clashes with insurgent fighters across the strife-torn east over the past 24 hours, a military spokesman said on Monday.

The army said rebels in the Luhansk region also shot down a Ukrainian warplane on Sunday.

In Ukraine’s largest rebel stronghold of Donetsk people were queueing to buy drinking water from kiosks after fighting forced local authorities to turn off supplies.

The city hall urged residents late on Sunday to stock up as water was turned off and central hotels instructed clients to fill their bathtubs.

Fighting around the city has also severed the railroad link between Donetsk and the rest of the country, leaving few options to flee the city for its remaining residents.

The United Nations estimates over 285,000 people have already fled the fighting in east Ukraine.

Russian Aid ‘Still Waiting’

A massive Russian aid convoy meanwhile still waited to be checked near Ukraine’s restive border as negotiations dragged on about allowing it to cross into rebel-held territory.

“We are still waiting for security guarantees for the convoy," said Galina Balzamova, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is overseeing the controversial cargo shipment.

Kiev and the West fear the convoy could be a Russian ploy to prop up the ailing insurgency but Moscow insists it just wants to get desperately-needed aid to the stricken region. AFP

Maria Antonova In Kiev also contributed to this story.

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