Seven Ukrainian soldiers killed in war-torn east
Seven Ukrainian soldiers have died in the war-torn east over the past 24 hours, the biggest casualty toll in a single day this year, Kiev said on Tuesday.
The latest violence came as the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine called for the implementation of a peace deal in the separatist east during late-night talks Monday.
"As a result of shelling, seven Ukrainian soldiers have died and nine received injuries over the past 24 hours," Oleksandr Turchynov, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council, said in a statement.
Turchynov blamed Russia's leadership for the attacks, accusing it of doing everything to "torpedo a peaceful way to solve the conflict and the liberation of the occupied territories".
He claimed Russia was massing heavy weapons along a demarcation line in the east, adding that over the past month Ukraine had detected an increased number of Russian reconnaissance and other unmanned aerial vehicles.
Military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said the deaths represented "extremely heavy losses" for the Ukrainian forces.
On Monday, the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine spoke by phone and called for the 2015 peace accords signed in Minsk to be implemented "as quickly as possible," according to the office of French President Francois Hollande.
The accords call for a ceasefire along with a range of political, economic and social measures to end the conflict which erupted in April 2014 and has now claimed more than 9,300 lives.
But persistent violence is preventing the warring sides from reaching a firm political reconciliation deal despite a series of truce agreements that have helped reduce the fighting over the past few months.
Earlier this month, France and Germany held a round of talks with Kiev and Moscow as part of efforts to try to seek a lasting peace deal but no consensus was reached over elections in the separatist regions.
Kiev and the West have accused Russia of buttressing the rebels and sending regular troops across the border, claims Moscow has repeatedly denied.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak warned last month that it could take years to end the conflict.
© 2016 AFP