KIEV (Reuters) - Two Ukrainian serviceman have been killed and five wounded in separatist eastern territories in the past 24 hours as fighting extended along a large stretch of the frontline, the Ukrainian military said on Tuesday.
Pro-Russian rebels also reported wounded in government shelling.
Violence has intensified in recent weeks despite a ceasefire deal which was brokered in the Belarussian capital of Minsk in mid-February. Government forces and separatists regularly accuse each other of violations and rebel envoys to peace talks said not enough was being done to shore up the agreement.
“The enemy is using practically all means of attack available, from snipers to heavy weapons. Active fighting is going on along a broad stretch of the frontline - from Granitnoye to Horlivka,” Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said, referring to two towns around 95 km (59 miles) apart. Lysenko was speaking at a regular midday briefing.
Pro-Russian rebels were also firing at government troop positions further north in Luhansk region.
NATO military commander General Philip Breedlove said he was aware of increase violence in separatist territories.
“There is fighting along the line of contact right now,” he told reporters in Siauliai, Lithuania.
More than 6,200 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in April 2014 after the ousting of a Moscow-backed president by street protests and the arrival in power of a leadership dedicated to moving Ukraine away from Moscow’s orbit toward integration in Europe.
A senior commander of pro-Russian rebels, Eduard Basurin, said three rebel fighters and five civilians had been wounded as a result of Ukrainian shelling of separatist-held territory since Monday, rebel press service DAN reported.
Representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the separatists and security watchdog OSCE gathered in Minsk for one of their regular meetings on the implementation of the ceasefire deal.
In briefings after the talks, envoys seemed divided over the outcome of negotiations.
Heidi Tagliavini of the OSCE said the meetings had been “constructive and had made progress ... The atmosphere was warmer than at previous meetings.”
However rebel representative Denis Pushilin expressed disappointment at the lack of headway in securing real peace.
“We expected more. There are positive steps, but far from enough to fully regulate the conflict and strengthen the ceasefire. On several points, Ukraine and we have strongly divergent views,” he told journalists.
Last week the OSCE said that despite assertions to the contrary, neither side had completed the withdrawal of heavy weapons as agreed in the ceasefire deal.
Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; editing by Ralph Boulton