Ukrainian soldier and civilian killed in intensifying clashes

The conflict between pro-Russian rebels and government troops in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 6,500 lives since the conflict began more than a year ago (AFP Photo/Anatolii Stepanov)

Kiev (AFP) - A Ukrainian soldier and a civilian were killed in the past 24 hours in Ukraine's separatist-held east amid a marked increase in fighting despite a fragile ceasefire, authorities said Sunday.

"A Ukrainian soldier was killed and six others wounded over the last 24 hours," Ukraine military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told a press conference.

Rebel shelling of a Ukrainian army checkpoint left one civilian dead Saturday in Marinka, six kilometres (nearly four miles) west of the separatists' stronghold Donetsk, said regional police Chief Vyacheslav Abroskin.

Army positions have been shelled 16 times in the last 24 hours by guns of a calibre of at least 100mm, Lysenko said.

Such weapons were to have been pulled back from the front lines under the February ceasefire hammered out in Minsk.

For the first time in weeks the town hall in Donetsk has reported shelling of the city, especially in neighbourhoods not far from the ruins of the airport, a frequent flashpoint.

At least six rebels have been wounded in the shelling, according to a separatist website.

Rebel leader Denis Pushilin condemned what he termed the "provocations" of the Ukraine army, noting the separatists had "nearly resumed large-scale hostilities", according to the rebel's official website.

The conflict between pro-Russian rebels and government troops in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 6,100 lives.

The February truce has been generally honoured by both sides, but sporadic clashes have continued to occur.