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Ukrainian Soldier Killed in Separatist Attack

FILE: A Ukrainian soldier adjusts his rifle sling as he leaves his position on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels near Shumy village, Ukraine, May 5, 2021.

Ukraine said Friday that one of its soldiers had been killed by pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, as the West accuses Moscow of a troop build-up near Ukraine.

Kiev's army has been battling fighters in two breakaway regions bordering Russia since 2014, after Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of sending troops and arms across the border to support the separatists -- claims Moscow denies.

Kiev's military said Friday that the separatists had targeted Ukrainian military positions with artillery and mortars.

"As a result of hostilities, one serviceman was fatally wounded," the military said on Facebook.

Ukraine said on Thursday it was seeking more military aid from its Western allies after they voiced concerns over Russian troop movements along the Ukrainian border.

Social media videos have in recent days shown Russia moving troops, tanks and missiles towards the Ukrainian border, raising concerns over an escalation in the conflict.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week voiced fresh concern about Russian troop movements and warned Moscow against any possible invasion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin for his part said Thursday that the West is "escalating" the Ukraine conflict by holding drills in the Black Sea and flying bombers near its borders.

After an uptick in violence at the beginning of the year, Russia massed around 100,000 troops on Ukraine's borders in the spring, raising fears of a major escalation in the conflict.

Russia later announced a pullback but both Ukraine and its ally the United States said at the time the withdrawal was limited.

The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people.