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Three Ukrainian soldiers killed in rebel east

Three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and seven injured during a new flareup in clashes between government forces and pro-Russian eastern separatist rebels, the Kiev military said Tuesday.

Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said fighting along the 500-kilometre (300)-mile) front had “escalated”, accusing the insurgents of violating a shaky truce agreement on 79 occasions since Monday afternoon.

He said much of the fighting centred around Zaitseve, a town in the disputed no man’s land between government forces and the insurgents that sits 55 kilometres (30 miles) north of the rebels’ de facto capital Donetsk.

Separatist authorities accused Kiev’s forces of shelling Zaitseve with mortars, tanks, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms, damaging 27 houses.

Ukraine accuses the Kremlin of supplying the insurgents with heavy weapons and some ground support, a charge Moscow denies despite witness testimony of Russia’s tanks crossing its western border with Ukraine into the war zone.

Motuzyanyk said, according to Ukrainian intelligence reports, two echelons of tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, ammunition and diesel fuel had recently arrived in the separatist-held railway hub of Ilovaisk, a focus of furious battles one year ago.

More than 9,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million displaced since the predominantly Russian-speaking Donetsk and Lugansk regions revolted against Ukraine’s new pro-Western government in April 2014.

A series of truce agreements have helped significantly reduce the fighting, although sporadic clashes continue on the frontline.