Three killed as clashes rumble on in east Ukraine

KIEV (AFP) - Two Ukrainian soldiers and one civilian were killed in the country's rebel-held east as clashes rattled an official truce aimed at ending nearly a year of fighting, Kiev and separatists said Saturday.

"Over the last 24 hour we have lost two soldiers and seven were injured," Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters.

Rebel military representative Eduard Basurin also announced that a civilian was killed and one injured after tripping a bomb in Vuglegirsk, a separatist-controlled town 35km north-east of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, on Thursday.

Basurin accused Kiev forces of injuring three civilians - a man, woman and a child - when they fired on Donetsk's Petrovsky district with a 120-mm mortar late Friday.

According to both sides, skirmishes continued to flare around Shyrokyne, a village close to the strategic port Mariupol, Kiev's largest remaining stronghold in the rebel-held east.

Separatists claim to control around 30 percent of the village, with many Ukrainians fearing Mariupol could become the focus of any new offensive in a conflict that has already claimed more than 6,000 lives in 11 months.

Fighting also broke out around the ruins of Donetsk Airport, which rebels took in January following months of fierce fighting.

Lysenko reported two clashes close to the airport, near the village of Opytne, and 15 sightings of enemy drones around Mariupol and Lugansk, another separatist bulwark.

Both sides accused each other of violating the Minsk peace accords, which were signed last month.

Kiev and the West accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of supporting the insurgency with troops, tanks and heavy weapons - accusations he rejects.