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KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine on Wednesday reported some of the strongest attacks by pro-Russian rebels since the signing of a peace deal in February, with eight government soldiers killed in the past 24 hours.
The separatist rebels in turn accused Ukrainian forces of intensifying attacks. They said two of their fighters and a civilian had been killed, and seven people wounded.
More than 6,500 people have been killed since the conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine in April last year. Attacks have lessened since the peace agreement was brokered in Minsk, Belarus, five months ago, but both sides accuse each other of violations.
The latest daily casualty figures were the highest in over a month.
"The situation in the conflict zone continues to deteriorate, the enemy has sharply increased the intensity of attacks along several parts of the frontline," Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said.
Rebels were using heavy artillery banned under the Minsk agreement and attacks were most intense near the frontline towns of Svitlodarsk and Horlivka and the western suburbs of the rebel-held city of Donetsk, he said.
The Ukrainian Security Council said rebel shelling in the past day had been among the "most powerful attacks since the signing of the Minsk agreement."
Three Ukrainian soldiers were killed by the shelling and five died in a landmine explosion in Luhansk region, while a further 16 were wounded, Lysenko said.
Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Mark Trevelyan