The Ukrainian government says three troops have been killed in the volatile eastern Ukraine over the past 24 hours.

Oleksander Motuzyanik from the presidential administration told a briefing Sunday that what appears to be the worst death toll in months came after the troops were shelled by Russia-backed separatists' heavy weaponry.

Local officials in the government-controlled town of Maryinka reported an hour and a half of heavy fighting that forced an evacuation of workers repairing a gas main damaged by a previous attack.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine between separatist rebels and government troops has claimed more than 9,100 lives since it erupted two years ago. Both sides have in the past weeks violated their pledges to adhere to a cease-fire, international monitors in the area have said.