Three Ukraine troops killed in Orthodox Christmas clashes
Ukraine said on Wednesday three of its soliders were killed in a spate of Orthodox Christmas Eve attacks by pro-Russian insurgents in the former Soviet republic's industrial east.
The deaths bring to more than 20 the number of Ukranian troops killed since the warring sides signed a reinforced truce deal on December 9.
The latest rebel strikes came a week before Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is due to meet Russia's Vladimir Putin in Kazakhstan for a rare round of direct crisis talks that are also due to include the leaders of Germany and France.
Ukranian military spokesman Andrei Lysenko said the three soldiers had died in separatist incidents in the main separatist province of Donetsk.
The United Nations estimates that more than 4,700 people have died and around a million more have been displaced by a rebel uprising that erupted in April in the wake of a Moscow-backed leadership's ouster in Kiev.
Russia denies charges from Kiev and its Western allies of supporting the revolt with troops and weapons in order to throw the new Kiev administration off balance and dependent on the Kremlin.
Ukraine last year dropped plans to join a new union being created by Russian President Vladimir Putin and instead signed a partnership pact with the European Union that opens the door to its membership in the 28-nation bloc.
Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on Wednesday across several former Soviet republics as well as nations such as Egypt and Greece.
© 2015 AFP