Ukraine reports first military casualties in 3 weeks

Over 9,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014, according to the United Nations (AFP Photo/Sergey Volskiy)

Kiev (AFP) - Two Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the country's war-torn east where government forces are seeking to put down a pro-Russian insurgency, the first reported casualties in nearly three weeks, Ukraine's military said Sunday,

"Over the last day, as a result of clashes one Ukrainian soldier was killed and another three were wounded," military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told journalists.

He was killed by mortar fire on the outskirts of ,Gorlivka, some 30 kilometres (19 miles) northeast of the rebels' de facto capital Donetsk, Motuzyanyk said.

The spokesman said the other Ukrainian soldier was killed when his vehicle hit a makeshift explosive device, which also injured another serviceman.

Over 9,000 people have been killed and more than 20,000 injured in the conflict in Ukraine since April 2014, according to the United Nations.

Kiev and the West have accused Russia of suporting the insurgency and sending regular troops across the border, claims that Moscow has repeatedly denied.

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