Two soldiers were killed and 12 wounded in Russian-speaking shelling in eastern Ukraine over the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian army said, noting that these are the highest casualties it has suffered since the beginning of the year as ceasefire violations increase.

The army added in a post on its Facebook account that it recorded 84 cases of shelling by separatists, who, according to the army, opened fire on about 40 settlements along the front line in eastern Ukraine using heavy artillery.

The Russian-speakers, for their part, denounce the exact opposite. That is, it is the Ukrainians who are attacking every day and even hitting populated areas in Donetsk and Lugansk.

Ukraine accuses Russia of provoking the violence, noting that Moscow has used it as a pretext to formally recognise the independence of two Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine and move its troops into the region, exacerbating the crisis and raising fears in the West that this could trigger a major conflict.