German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with Ukraine's leaders in Kiev as prelude to Russia-Ukraine talks next week, and as government shelling intensifies on the rebel stronghold Donetsk. Mana Rabiee reports.
The aftermath of unusually intense shelling on the rebel stronghold, Donetsk. Ukrainian government forces may be trying to achieve a breakthrough in fighting with pro-Russian separatists by Sunday, Ukraine's Independence Day. Most of the shelling was on the city's outskirts but explosions were also heard in the city center. At least three people were killed. As government forces tighten their grip on rebels in the east, cities and towns face shortages of food and supplies. Avdiivka, north of Donetsk, was retaken by the army in early August, but the fighting still goes on, and the city's cut off from all water and power. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) AVDIIVKA RESIDENT, OLEG, SAYING: "There's no water, no electricity, nobody does anything. Pensions are not paid. The famine will start soon if it hasn't already." The intensified shelling on Donetsk came just hours before German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Ukraine's leaders in the capital Kiev. Her visit is a prelude to a meeting next week between Russia and Ukraine -- that diplomats say is the best chance in months for a peace deal. Kiev and the West say Moscow's been funneling weapons to rebels, so a Russian aid convoy that entered Ukraine last week only flared tensions even further. Tightening the border between these two countries, says Merkel with President Poroshekno at her side, is key to reaching a deal. (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN CHANCELLOR, ANGELA MERKEL, SAYING: "The president rightly points out that secure boundaries at the border are the condition for bringing about a real ceasefire." Government forces now surround the rebels in their two strongholds, Donetsk and Luhansk. It means Kiev has less incentive to agree to a ceasefire just when victory seems within reach. Merkel is hoping Ukraine will be receptive IF Russia does offer overtures of peace next week.