Artillery shells have hit close to the centre of Ukraine's separatist-held city of Donetsk for the first time, killing at least one person.

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A man looks at a damaged building after shelling in DonetskAFP

Two shells landed 660 feet (201m) from the Park Inn Radisson, one of the city's main hotels, shattering windows. The blasts opened up a yawning hole on the third floor of an apartment block and left a broad crater on the pavement.

It was not immediately clear if the artillery was fired by government or rebel forces.

Several high-rise blocks in a south-western district in the city showed the effect of artillery strikes. In one, the facade of one of the top floors was blown away to reveal a shattered interior. Others bore smashed windows and gaping holes.

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Residents walk in a street covered with leaves after the strikeAFP
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Smokes rises above buildings shortly after the centre of the eastern Ukrainian city was hit AFP
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Pro-Russian separatists carry what appears to be part of a shell in DonetskReuters
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A pro-Russian gunman stands next a bomb crater near the cityAFP
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Pro-Russian gunmen walk past a dead body lying on a pavement in DonetskAFP
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Elderly residents sit inside a bomb shelter in the separatist-held cityReuters
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A woman holds a newborn baby as she stands inside a bomb shelter in a Donetsk maternity hospitalAFP

The Ukrainian army has refrained from going into Donetsk, favouring an artillery campaign of attrition over close urban combat. Residents have revealed that damaged houses are often to be found near rebel firing positions, suggesting that the rocket attacks are responses to outgoing strikes.

Ukrainian troops have been slowly encircling Donetsk, a city that once had a population of nearly one million people.

donetsk shelling
People look out of their damaged flats in the town of Yasynuvata, near Donetsk. Shells ripped through blocks of flats and set its central market on fireAFP
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A man carries goods out of his burned shop in the townAFP
donetsk shelling
A resident stands in the wreckage of his home in YasynuvataAFP
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A mother and daughter sit inside a makeshift bomb shelter in the basement of their houseAFP

The UN has revealed that the death toll from the fighting between government troops and separatists has nearly doubled in the last two weeks. "Very conservative estimates" show the overall death toll has risen to at least 2,086 people as of 10 August, up from 1,129 on 26 July.

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Locals look on as a Ukrainian armoured personnel carrier passes through the eastern Ukrainian city of Vuglegirsk, in the Donetsk region, which was taken by the country's forces three days agoAFP