Mortar kills Ukraine soldier as attacks intensify

A member of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic forces loads a shell onto a self-propelled artillery gun during tactical training exercises in Donetsk region, Ukraine, February 4, 2016. Fighting has flared up again in Ukraine's east. Photo: REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

KIEV - A Ukrainian soldier was killed in a sudden upsurge in clashes between pro-Russian rebels and government forces in the country's separatist east, Ukraine's military said Friday.

"Over the past 24 hours, as a result of hostilities one Ukrainian soldier was killed and another three were wounded," military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters.

Lysenko said fighting along the front "has escalated", accusing the insurgents of violating a shaky truce 81 times since Thursday - the highest number recorded since the end of August.

The soldier died during a mortar attack on the contested village of Zaitseve, a recent flashpoint located 55 kilometres (35 miles) northeast of the rebels' de facto capital Donetsk.

Meanwhile, separatist authorities accused Kiev's forces of also intensifying their attacks in breach of the latest ceasefire agreed on January 13.

More than 9,000 people have been killed and 20,000 injured since the revolt against Ukraine's new pro-Western leadership erupted in April 2014, according to the United Nations.

Kiev and the West accuse Russia of supporting the insurgents and sending regular troops across the border, claims that Moscow denies.


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