Separatist militants in east Ukraine have blown up a 40m-tall factory chimney that was topped with a giant lipstick tube in tribute to the women who helped rebuild the city after World War II.

The art work was entitled Transform, and was created in 2012 by Cameroonian artist Pascale Martine Tayou.

Footage of the demolition has emerged online, but activists believe it took place earlier this month, reports Meduza.

Donetsk is the self-declared capital of separatist groups currently battling Ukrainian government forces. Though a truce was agreed in February, it is frequently broken. The city has been the site of fierce fighting between the sides.

It is unclear why militants blew up the art work, but Izolyatsia, a non-profit cultural organisation formerly based in the old insulation materials factory, said the city's new "mercenary" leadership had declared its determination to destroy the work exhibited there, declaring it "not art at all."

The gallery, library and exhibition space is now used as a prison, to execute prisoners, and to keep stolen cars, the group said in a statement.

They said that art work they had been unable to take with them had been destroyed by militants.

"Over the past year IZOLYATSIA team was constantly informed of the consistent destruction of the artworks, which remained on the seized territory, and specifically, the destruction of site-specific installations," the group wrote.

In a poem emailed to IBTimes UK, Marthine Tayou expressed his sorrow at the destruction of the art work.

"I am speechless/ I am helpless !/ No space for hate on the ground of my secret garden/ No place for the bad seed in my soul!" he wrote.

Artists from countries including Argentina, China and France previously exhibited at the centre, and the group claims that material from destroyed art has been used for for scrap metal to construct checkpoints in the city.