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Ukraine Says Nine Soldiers Killed Amid Intense Shelling

The conflict in Ukraine's eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk has claimed more than 10,000 lives since it began in early 2014. (file photo)

Ukraine's Defense Ministry said on July 20 that nine Ukrainian soldiers were killed and five wounded in the previous 24 hours as Russia-backed separatists stepped up shelling attacks on their positions in the country's east.

The reported toll was among the highest in recent months in the conflict, which persists despite an internationally backed 2015 deal that imposed a cease-fire and set out steps to resolve the status of separatist-held areas in eastern Ukraine.

Ministry spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, told reporters that six of the soldiers were killed in the Donetsk region. The other three were killed when they stepped on an explosive device in the Luhansk region on July 19, he said.

According to Lysenko, the separatists shelled Ukrainian positions 14 times in the previous 24 hours.

After a Moscow-friendly president was pushed from power by massive protests in Kyiv, Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and fomented separatism in eastern Ukraine, where the ensuing war has killed more than 10,000 people since April 2014.

With reporting by UNIAN and