According to a report from the Associated Press, at least 34 civilians and nine Ukrainian troops died yesterday fighting pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. The troops were trying to take over Donestk, which is still held by the rebels.

Fighting continues today in Luhansk, another rebel-held city, which "has been without electricity, running water or phone connections for 18 days." According to the AP, "residents are reported to be standing in lines to buy bread baked on portable generators as food grows scarce." The conflict has left over 2,000 dead since it began in April.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to visit Kiev on Saturday. Merkel, according to The New York Times, is now ready to take more of an active role in brokering peace. Additionally, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladmir Putin will meet next week (for only the second time since the conflict began). Ukraine and western nations have repeatedly accused Russia of arming and aiding the rebels—just last week, Ukraine said it destroyed a Russian military convoy that was attempting to enter the country.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told The Wall Street Journal that the Poroshenko-Putin meeting will be "a good thing, because there needs to be a peaceful end to this."

[Image via AP]