Ukraine, rebels accuse each other of violating latest truce

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Over 9,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine in April 2014

Over 9,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine in April 2014 (AFP Photo/Dominique Faget)

Kiev (AFP) - Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian rebels accused each other of violating a holiday ceasefire Wednesday, just hours after it came into force in the war-torn country's east.

"Illegal armed groups have already violated these agreements. Since the beginning of the day we recorded seven enemy shellings of our positions," military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists.

The sides had agreed Tuesday to halt all fire and manoeuvres starting from midnight to last through the Christmas and New Year's holidays, but Lysenko said rebels were using heavy weapons, including multiple rocket launchers.

Separatist authorities rejected the accusations and said they were "fully" implementing the ceasefire agreements, accusing Ukrainian forces of "continuing to shell" their territory with mortars and using small arms.

Military spokesman Eduard Basurin said Ukrainian troops have attacked Zaytseve, a village 50 kilometres (31 miles) northeast of rebel stronghold Donetsk, as well as near Donetsk airport and the town of Gorlivka.

"They do not fulfil their obligations," he told AFP.

Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, who declared two "people's republics" in eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions, have fought since April 2014, with over 9,000 people killed in the violence that Kiev blames on Moscow.

A series of truce agreements have helped significantly dampen the hostilities though sporadic clashes have continued near the line of contact and the two sides regularly accuse each other of violations.