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Ukrainian President Says Almost 7,000 Civilians Killed In War

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says that nearly 7,000 civilians have been killed in the year-long war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

He said in an address to the country's parliament on May 8 that more than 1,000 people remained unaccounted for.

The figures mark a significant increase from the most recent UN tally of around 6,100 people killed.

Poroshenko said some 1,657 Ukrainian troops had also been killed in combat — which he described as aggression from Russia.

Moscow denies supplying separatist rebels with equipment or manpower, but it has been open in its diplomatic support for the separatists. Poroshenko said Russian involvement in the war had forced Ukraine to seek further alignment with the West.

A shaky cease-fire has been in place in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, following a peace deal agreed in Minsk on February 12.

Violations are routinely reported, although the scale of fighting is down since its peak.

International cease-fire monitors say both parties are violating the peace agreement by deploying heavy weapons near the front line.

Poroshenko said that the peace deal remained the only option in place for restoring stability to east Ukraine.

"This has enabled some degree of deescalation in the conflict," he said. "Every day in which nobody dies is like a feast day for me."

Earlier on May 8, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said that two soldiers had been killed and another 26 injured over the previous day.

In a calculated snub to Russia, Ukraine this year brought its World War II victory celebrations forward by one day to May 8, the date marked in Western Europe.

Laying flowers at a World War II memorial in Kyiv on May 8 with Poroshenko, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world body "stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine."

Ban also offered his support should Ukraine turn to the UN for assistance on its own peace and security.

Poroshenko has called for UN peacekeepers to be deployed in eastern Ukraine, an idea rejected by Moscow.

With reporting by AP
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