MARIUPOL, Ukraine, April 5 (UPI) -- Nine Ukrainian soldiers were killed in three separate incidents over the weekend in the country's east, the latest breach of a fragile ceasefire organized by international powers earlier this year.
Two soldiers were killed in the government-controlled port city of Mariupol when their vehicle struck a mine, and four others died in Schastye, near the rebel bastion of Luhansk close to the Russian border.
Ukraine's interior ministry released a statement saying the four were killed by an anti-tank rocket fired by a pro-Russian separatists as their vehicle crossed a bridge.
On Saturday three other government soldiers were killed in a mine blast near the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.
The incidents join other isolated breaches of a February ceasefire organized in Minsk, Belarus, by leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France.
The deal called for a stop to fighting, a complete swap of prisoners on both sides and a withdrawal of heavy weapons, including artillery and rockets, from front-line positions.
Soon after the Minsk agreement, rebel forces captured the town of Debaltseve, threatening to break apart the terms of the truce as rebel forces claimed the ceasefire did not apply there. The bombing of a pro-Ukraine rally in Kharkiv, near the Russian border, further increased doubts about the agreement.
Though Russia has denied it, Western powers charge that it is supplying weaponry and troops to separatists in Ukraine's east. Moscow has characterized Russian troops fighting in Ukraine as "volunteers."
The Obama administration has weighed sending military equipment to assist Kiev but has yet to act amid the general lull in large-scale fighting and objections from western European allies.
Speaking in Brussels late last month, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove advocated shipping arms to Ukrainian forces to counter Russia's effort to do the same for the rebels.
"Could it be destabilizing?" Breedlove said at the time. "The answer is yes. Also inaction could be destabilizing."