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3 Ukrainian soldiers killed in past 24 hours

A military official said rebels had shelled Ukrainian positions 22 times over the past day.

FILE: A man stands next a crater following shelling in the Kuybeshevski area in Donetsk. Picture: AFP

KIEV - Three Ukrainian servicemen were killed and nine were wounded in the last 24 hours in the country's east where government troops are fighting with pro-Russian rebels, a Ukrainian military source told Reuters on Tuesday.

The casualties, some of the worst losses for Kiev in days, underscore the fragility of a two-week old ceasefire agreed between Kiev and the rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed about 6,000 people.

The military source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, gave no further details. A military spokesman said earlier that rebels had shelled Ukrainian positions 22 times over the past day.

Both Europe and the United States have voiced hope that the Minsk accords agreed last month could lower tensions in a conflict that has brought ties between Russia and the West to their lowest since the Cold War.

Ukraine and the rebels accuse each other daily of shooting at each other's front line positions. This has slowed implementation of the new Minsk peace agreement, part of which also envisages the withdrawal of heavy artillery.

The rebels have invited members of the media to witness guns being led away from the front line, but the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says it cannot confirm the withdrawal of weapons as they have not been given access to see where the guns have been relocated.