A number of Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in eastern Ukraine, according to the country’s military. The deadly attack occurred near Shakhtarsk, roughly 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the MH17 crash site.
At least 10 Ukrainian troops were killed in an ambush by Russian-backed separatists, according to the Ukrainian military on Friday. The soldiers were reportedly being redeployed to Shakhtarsk when they came under attack by mortar and tank fire overnight.
"In total it is known that 14 people died but the bodies of four of them have not been identified and could be Ukrainian soldiers or terrorists," Ukrainian military spokesperson Oleksiy Dmytrashkivsky said.
"So far we are talking about 10 Ukrainian servicemen dead" in the clash, he said.
The eastern Ukrainian town lies on the highway linking the two cities which are the separatists' two main strongholds: Donetsk and Luhansk. It is also close to where Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crashed late last month after allegedly being shot down by rebels.
The Ukrainian military has intensified its military campaign aimed at wresting territory from the grip of separatists, who are accused by the international community of receiving financial and logistical support from Russia.
Crash site remains unstable
News of continued fighting near the crash site followed an appeal the previous day by Ukraine's President Petro Poroshneko and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for separatists to respect a 20-kilometer (12 mile) ceasefire zone around the broad debris field.
On Thursday, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) team was able to reach the site, but the head of the mission cast doubt on the likelihood of the situation remaining calm.
"The security situation is still very unstable," Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told journalists in Kyiv. "We are not absolutely sure if we can reach the crash site with the whole team of experts in the near future, but we are more hopeful than we were yesterday."
Clashes near the MH17 crash site have hindered the international team from completing its sweep of the area where it continues to recover remains of the 239 victims..
According to Australian officials, investigators believe that the remains of up to 80 people could still be at the site.
kms/pfd (AP, AFP, Reuters)
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