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UPDATE 3-oil rises nearly $1 as Ukraine hots up

* Fighting in Ukraine escalates, Putin says peace plan is over

* Crude inventories at highest ever in U.S. weigh on oil

* Libya's Zueitina port to resume oil loadings this week

* Coming up: U.S. nonfarm payrolls for April - 1230 GMT

(Changes dateline to LONDON, updates prices, adds comment)

LONDON, May 2 (Reuters) - Brent crude futures rose by almost $1 to above $108 a barrel on Friday as fighting between Ukraine's army and a pro-Russian group in the east intensified, stoking fears of energy supply disruptions from the region.

The west has threatened more sanctions against Russia, which it believes is helping separatist groups. So far, U.S. and EU measures have not affected gas or oil flows.

Pro-Russian rebels shot down two Ukrainian helicopters on Friday, killing two crew, as troops tightened their siege of separatist-held Slaviansk in what Moscow called a "criminal" assault by Kiev that wrecked hopes of peace.

June Brent crude rose 76 cents to $108.52 a barrel by 0923 GMT after settling on Thursday at its lowest close since April 11. U.S. crude was at $99.92 a barrel, up 50 cents.

"The fact that the Ukrainian army has started to move is creating uncertainty ahead of the weekend," Olivier Jakob of consultancy Petromatrix in Zug, Switzerland said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the "punitive operation" mounted by Ukrainian forces had destroyed a peace plan agreed with Western powers two weeks ago.

Further gains were tempered by bearish oil demand signals out of the U.S. coupled with the impending return of more Libyan exports.

U.S. and European oil benchmarks tumbled mid-week after U.S. crude inventories hit a new record high last week on the back on strong output, the U.S. Energy Information Administration data showed.

In Libya, state-run National Oil Corp (NOC) said on Thursday that the Zueitina port was expected to load its first tanker of crude since reopening after nearly ten months due to protests.

Investors are awaiting nonfarm payroll data from the United States later on Friday.

"Non-farm payroll will have an impact on the dollar and equities. If there is any surprise, it might have an impact on oil but right now it's trading on the fear factor," Eugen Weinberg, analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt said.

U.S. employment likely rose at its fastest clip in five months in April, according to a Reuters survey of economists. Such a result would further confirm that world's largest economy is back on track after a dismal winter.

(Additional reporting by Florence Tan in Singapore, Editing by William Hardy)