Fighting raged overnight and in the early hours on Tuesday on the outskirts of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine despite an agreement reached by the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers a day earlier.
Heavy shelling was heard in Donetsk late Monday evening and in the early hours on Tuesday. Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told a televised briefing that six troops were killed and 12 wounded in a 24-hour period, while rebels reported one fighter dead and five wounded in the overnight clashes.
Fighting in the east had largely subsided following a cease fire deal signed by combatants in February but has rekindled in recent days.
The military death toll is the highest since the signing of the cease-fire two months ago between Russian-backed rebels and government forces. European and occasionally U.S. diplomats have sat down multiple times across the negotiating table from Russian counterparts since the start of fighting a year ago.
The yearlong conflict has claimed more than 6,000 lives and left large parts of Ukraine's once industrial heartland in ruins.
The rebels in Donetsk, some of them Russian-speaking, favor a closer relationship with their former Soviet overlords, while their fellow Ukrainians in the western half of the country look to the European Union. The conflict has heightened tensions between the West and Moscow to Cold War levels.
“The situation in the conflict zone remains unstable. Armed attacks from the enemy are taking place in almost all parts (of the frontline),” Lysenko said in a televised briefing.
The most active exchange of fire on Monday was around villages near Donetsk, Lysenko said. He gave no details on the circumstances of the deaths of the six soldiers.
Lysenko also reported civilian casualties, including two teenagers who were wounded in shelling in the Horlivka area north of Donetsk.
Russia and Ukraine agreed in Berlin on Monday to call for the pullback of smaller-caliber weapons from the front lines of the conflict. On the ground, however, even the previous agreement that called for a cease-fire and a withdrawal of large-caliber weaponry appeared to be shaky.
A Russian journalist was injured Tuesday morning when he stepped on a land mine in Shyrokyne during a visit to the village on the Azov Sea that has been the epicenter of recent fighting. Andrei Lunev, a video journalist who works for the Zvezda television station, received first aid at the scene and was taken to a hospital.
Shyrokyne has changed hands repeatedly throughout the conflict.