2,900 EXPLOSIONS IN A DAY: Heavy artillery and tank fire returns to the front lines in Ukraine.

An early morning artillery barrage started the latest bloody scrap in eastern Ukraine Sunday as Russian-backed militants and government troops clashed near the town of Svitlodarsk.

A spokesman for the Ukrainian military, Col. Andriy Lysenko, said that five soldiers were killed and 16 wounded during the day-long battle and that Russian-backed separatist forces had attempted to break through government lines. It was the largest single loss of life for Ukrainian troops in five months.

A resident in a nearby separatist-controlled town, who asked not to be identified for personal security reasons, dismissed the idea that any separatist troops had attempted to attack and said the fighting was merely “rocket-tennis” between the two sides.

Svitlodarsk lies on the main road between Russian-held areas in the Donbas, and Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.