Kiev -

Ukrainian forces said on Friday that rebels in the conflict-torn east had opened fire on a medical evacuation helicopter, injuring the three crew on board and forcing it to make an emergency landing.

The incident occurred late on Thursday near the airport of Lugansk, the second largest rebel-held city, the military said in a statement.

“Terrorists opened fire on a medical Mi-8 helicopter (Medevac), the crew made an emergency landing,” it said, adding that the helicopter was damaged in the attack and that all three injured airmen were brought to a hospital in territory controlled by the government.

The statement also noted that Russia continued to fire on Ukrainian positions from across the border.

This latest incident comes after rebels shot down a Ukrainian fighter jet on Thursday.

Rebels said that the two pilots from the downed plane had been found and captured.

Ukrainian forces have lost a string of aircraft during the conflict.

The jet came down 40km west of the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which the US has accused rebels of shooting down on July 17 with a missile likely supplied by Russia.

Fighting continues to rage around rebel-held cities in eastern Ukraine, as government forces make their advances and try to cut the strongholds off from each other and the Russian border.

Over 1 300 people have already been killed and 285 000 forced to flee during almost four months of conflict that the Red Cross has designated a civil war. - Sapa-AFP