Ukraine soldiers killed in separatist forces attack in rebel east

Five Ukrainian soldiers were killed and seven wounded in the country’s rebel east Thursday in an attempt to hold back an assault by separatist forces, Ukraine’s defense ministry said.

“As a result of a five-hour-long battle, four Ukrainian soldiers died, and seven more … received various injuries,” defense ministry spokesperson Dmytro Gutsulyak told a press briefing. Another soldier was killed separately in artillery fire, he said.

The battle early Thursday took place in Lugansk region near the village of Krymske when pro-Russian separatists “attempted to overtake observation posts” on a local highway, Gutsulyak said.

Another soldier was killed in artillery fire elsewhere in the conflict zone, he added.

More than 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict in eastern Ukraine broke out in April 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

A series of periodic truce deals, the last of which was agreed only Wednesday, have helped lower violence but have not fully ended the bloodshed.

Earlier this month, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said for the first time it had spotted Russian-made weapons in the rebel-held areas, but did not explicitly name the country of origin.

The OSCE said one of its drones had seen the Leer-3, Krasukha-2, Bylina, and Repellent-1 systems in Ukraine, some 64 kilometers (40 miles) southwest of Lugansk.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms across the border. Moscow has denied the allegations.

With reporting from AFP

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