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Five Ukrainian soldiers killed in rebel east: Ministry

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,” spokesman for the defense ministry Dmytro Gutsulyak told a press briefing.

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.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Ukrainian troops were attacked with high-caliber artillery. “The Russians… are trying to attack the positions of our troops, violating the ceasefire,” he said.

Rebel officials, cited by official media in the so-called Lugansk People’s Republic, the separatist enclave in Lugansk region, in turn blamed the Ukrainian army for violating the truce.