Two Ukraine soldiers killed ahead of separatist polls
AFP, , Saturday 10 Nov 2018

Two soldiers were killed in war-torn eastern Ukraine, the military said Saturday, as separatists prepared to hold elections in defiance of the West.

"Over the past 24 hours, two soldiers received fatal wounds as a result of hostilities," Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told a briefing.

The soldiers were attacked near the rebel-controlled city of Lugansk, with the separatists using heavy weapons including large-calibre mortars, he said.

A series of periodic truces have helped lower the level of violence in two breakaway provinces in Ukraine's industrial east but have not fully ended the bloodshed.

On Sunday, the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk "People's Republics" are to hold elections despite Western calls on Russia to cancel the ballot so as not to further sabotage peace agreements.

The United States and the European Union say the polls will further undermine efforts to settle a crisis that has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014.

"There have been more Ukrainian soldiers killed, more casualties in the conflict in Ukraine than Americans in the entire length of the war in Afghanistan," the US special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, said this week.

Kiev and its Western backers accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms across the border to fan the flames of the conflict.

Moscow has denied the claims despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.