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May 1, 9:16 AM EDT

3 dead in eastern Ukraine amid Easter armistice violations

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MOSCOW (AP) -- Three deaths were reported Sunday in the fighting in eastern Ukraine despite a recently brokered armistice for Orthodox Easter.

Government forces and Russia-backed separatists had agreed to observe a cease-fire with the start of the Orthodox Easter and May Day holidays. The armistice was supposed to go into effect at midnight Saturday. Sunday is Easter under the Orthodox Christian calendar.

Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesman for Ukraine's operation in the east, said Sunday morning that one soldier has been killed and seven more injured in the past 24 hours. He said separatists had shelled government positions overnight at several locations, including the suburbs of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

The separatist mouthpiece Donetsk News Agency reported two fighters dead and four injured in shelling by government forces on Easter night. The rebels' self-proclaimed defense ministry said their side of the front line was shelled more than 160 times in the past 24 hours.

Fighting in the Ukrainian industrial heartland has been raging for two years now, claiming more than 9,300 lives.

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