E. Ukraine Sees Increase in Fighting

E. Ukraine Sees Increase in Fighting

MOSCOW (AP) -- Ukraine on Saturday reported a sharp increase in attacks by Russia-backed separatists around the government-held town of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine, resulting in at least one civilian death. The rebels also reported increased shelling from government forces and the death of one of their fighters.

The fighting that broke out in eastern Ukraine two years ago has killed more than 9,100 people and left swaths of territory under rebel control. A cease-fire agreement signed in February 2015 in Minsk, Belarus, has significantly reduced the violence, but it is regularly violated by both sides and the political settlement that was part of the agreement has not been implemented.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, responsible for monitoring the truce, on Thursday expressed concern about what it called the highest level of cease-fire violations since September. The head of the monitoring mission, Ertugrul Apakan, "noted as particularly troubling the extremely high number of incidents involving the use of heavy weapons and mortars."

Ukraine's military said the situation around Avdiivka has significantly deteriorated since last weekend and accused the rebels of using tanks, mortars and artillery to attack the town, located just 17 kilometers (10 miles) north of Donetsk, the separatist stronghold. On Friday, a mortar attack killed a civilian woman, the statement said.

Five Ukrainian servicemen were wounded Friday, including four in Avdiivka, the Interfax news agency reported, citing Andriy Lysenko, presidential spokesman for Ukrainian forces in the east.

The rebel forces accused government troops of widespread shelling in violation of the cease-fire. Eduard Basurin, deputy head of the Donetsk military forces, said one fighter was killed by a Ukrainian sniper and two civilians were wounded, Interfax reported.