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Ukrainian soldiers killed as conflict zone remains 'unstable'

Kyiv officials say six soldiers have been killed in fighting in separatist-held eastern Ukraine. They are the heaviest losses for government forces in the last ten days.

The Kyiv military on Tuesday announced that six servicemen had been killed in clashes in the east despite a fragile two-month-old ceasefire.

"Over the past day, as a result of serious provocations, six Ukrainian soldiers were killed, 12 wounded," military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told a televised news briefing.

"The situation in the conflict zone remains unstable. Armed attacks from the enemy are taking place in almost all parts," he said, without giving details of how the casualties were caused. The heaviest fighting took place around the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, according to Lysenko.

Mutual accusations

Both Ukraine's military and the pro-Moscow separatists fighting against it have accused each other of increasing ceasefire violations over the past few days, with casualties being reported almost daily.

Lysenko said the insurgents had been using 120mm mortars and 122mm cannon, despite an agreement under the February ceasefire to withdraw all heavy weapons from the frontline.

In their turn, separatist officials cited by separatist news agency DAN accused government troops of shelling rebel positions.

The military deaths come after foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France meeting in Berlin overnight

called for an end to renewed fighting.
Deutschland - (L-R) French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov AFP PHOTO / POOL / CLEMENS BILAN/AFP/Getty Images

The ministers said the truce was the only hope for peace

The ministers, who met to assess the status of the truce, expressed "grave concern" at increasing violations of the ceasefire.

More than 6,000 people have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine since last April. That is when pro-Russian rebels declared independence from Kyiv, after the new government began to implement policies seen as

taking the country toward Europe and away from Moscow's sphere of influence.

Many Western countries have accused Russia of supporting and arming the rebels, something Moscow has always denied.

tj/jr (AFP, Reuters)

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