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Ukraine soldiers killed, wounded in continued skirmishes

Ukraine's army has reported the death of six soldiers in the past 24 hours amid a pro-Russian insurgency in the country's east. A February cease-fire deal has failed to end daily clashes.

Six Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 14 others wounded in clashes across rebel-controlled regions in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces over the past day, Ukraine's chief military spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, said on Saturday.

He said the casualties were the result both of shelling by the pro-Russian separatists and of encounters with mines.

Some of the worst fighting occurred around the airport near the rebel-held city of Donetsk, Lysenko said, accusing the rebels of employing tanks, armored personnel carriers and heavy artillery.

The toll announced on Saturday is one of the heaviest reported on any single day in the past two weeks of fighting, which have jeopardized a fragile cease-fire deal agreed upon in February in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, with the mediation of Germany and France.

Traded accusations

The rebels in turn accused Ukrainian forces of firing at the village of Oktyabrsky near Donetsk, injuring two civilians, rebel press service DAN reported.

At least seven people, including five civilians, were reported killed on Thursday, among the more than 35 who died last week as the army and rebels continued to exchange mortar and rocket fire across a buffer zone stipulated in the February deal.

On Thursday, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said neither side had completely withdrawn heavy weapons from the zone, although both claim to have complied.

The United Nations estimates that at least 6,400 people have died and more than a million have been displaced in the conflict, which erupted in April 2014.

The Kyiv government and many Western countries accuse Russia of providing military and other aid to the rebels, but Russia has always denied the charges.

tj/ AFP, Reuters)

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