Pregnant woman among four killed in east Ukraine

Olenivka (Ukraine) (AFP) - Four civilians including a pregnant woman were killed and eight others wounded early Wednesday when their cars came under mortar fire in war-torn eastern Ukraine, rebel officials said.

The shelling attack occurred in the rebel-controlled village of Olenivka just 300 metres (1,000 feet) from a demarcation line separating pro-Russian rebels and government forces.

The body of a pregnant woman could be seen in the back seat of one of the damaged cars, her mobile phone ringing constantly, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

Another victim could be seen in the front seat of another car, while the remains of two other people lay in the road surrounded by shell fragments and water-filled craters.

"According to preliminary information, another eight people were injured," rebel commander Eduard Basurin told AFP, blaming a mortar attack.

The Ukrainian military denied any involvement and blamed the rebels for the attack.

"We're not involved in this tragedy", military spokesman Anton Myronovych told AFP by telephone.

"We are considering two options: either the insurgents themselves fired at these cars, or they detonated (an explosive) device that was put there in advance".

The attack was the latest in a fresh upsurge of violence in eastern Ukraine, which has killed at least six Ukrainian soldiers over the past week -- the heaviest toll in nearly two months.

Around 9,200 people have died and more than 21,000 have been injured since the revolt against Ukraine's pro-Western leadership erupted two years ago in the predominantly Russian-speaking industrial region.

A series of truce agreements have helped reduce the violence, although sporadic clashes persist and prevent the two sides from reaching a political reconciliation deal.