Sudden spike in violence kills six in east Ukraine

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Sudden spike in violence kills four in east Ukraine
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Kiev (AFP) - Six people died in clashes between government forces and pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine's separatist east, officials said Friday, the highest death toll since international peace talks held 10 days ago.

The flare-up in the two-year conflict followed German Chancelor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande's efforts to breathe fresh air in a stalled peace process during talks with Russia's Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko in Berlin.

"Over the past 24 hours, as a result of fighting, one Ukrainian serviceman was killed," Kiev's military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters, accusing the rebels of "a sharp intensification" of attacks.

The rebels' news agency said two of their fighters were killed and another six wounded on Thursday.

They also reported the death of three civilians in Ukranian shelling near their de facto capital of Donetsk.

The Berlin summit failed to resolve one of Europe's bloodiest conflicts since the Balkans wars of the 1990s, with the leaders only agreeing to come up with a "roadmap" for peace by the end of next month.

The fighting has claimed nearly 10,000 lives and raised alarm across parts of eastern Europe that were once Moscow's control.

Russia, which annexed Crimea from pro-Western Ukraine in 2014, denies either sending troops or weapons across its border to fuel the conflict, despite eyewitness testimony to the contrary.

But it openly back the separatists' cause at international venues such as the UN Security Council.

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