Nearly 100 people dead in last three days as fighting escalates in eastern Ukraine

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A pro-Russian gunman stands next to a bomb crater after shelling near Donetsk on August 14, 2014. AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF

A pro-Russian gunman stands next to a bomb crater after shelling near Donetsk on August 14, 2014. AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF

(CNN) — At least 94 people were killed during clashes between the Ukrainian military and rebels in eastern Ukraine over the past three days, officials in Ukraine said Thursday.

Shelling hit nearly all districts of the eastern Ukrainian rebel stronghold of Donetsk on Thursday, city leaders said, signaling the latest developments in a city targeted for days by a Ukrainian military bent on retaking it.

Shelling damaged two shopping centers, and a fire raged near an oil storage facility, the Donetsk city council said on its website.

The shelling comes as 50,000 Ukrainian troops press forward with an offensive meant to rout pro-Russian rebel fighters from Donetsk. Days of shelling already had pushed some residents underground into cellars and half-built basements.

Ukrainian officials have said they expect to be able to fully recapture the city by Ukraine’s Independence Day on August 24.

The ongoing fighting — sparked last year with a political crisis over whether Ukraine would seek closer ties with Europe or Russia — has left more than 2,000 people dead and just under 5,000 wounded in eastern Ukraine since mid-April, according to estimates from U.N. officials that they called “conservative.” The officials say the death toll has been on the rise in recent days, with reports of at least 41 killed and 143 wounded on Thursday alone.

Hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes and seek shelter either elsewhere in Ukraine or across the border in Russia, the United Nations says.

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