KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said Saturday that pro-Russian separatists shot down a large military transport plane in the country's unsettled east and that service personnel aboard were killed.

The statement on the ministry's website says the plane was downed at night as it approached an airport at Lugansk. The statement did not say how many people were on board the Il-76 transport plane, which was carrying service members as well as equipment and food.

The statement said that the rebels "cynically and treacherously" downed the plane using anti-aircraft guns and heavy caliber machine guns. It expressed sympathy to the families of those killed "for their tragic and irreparable loss."

Ukrainian troops sit in a vehicle as they leave a site of a battle in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Friday, June 13, 2014. Ukraine?s interior minister says
Ukrainian troops sit in a vehicle as they leave a site of a battle in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Friday, June 13, 2014. Ukraine?s interior minister says that government troops have attacked pro-Russian separatists in the southern port of Mariupol. Arsen Avakov said Friday that four government troops were wounded as forces retook buildings occupied by the rebels in the center of the town. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka) (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

An Il-76 is a four-engine jet that can be used to transport heavy gear and people.

Lugansk is in Ukraine's east near its border with Russia, an area that has seen separatists seize government buildings and declare independence after holding disputed referendums. The Ukrainian health ministry says at least 270 people have died in clashes between government forces and armed separatists, who Ukraine says are supported by Russia. Russia denies that.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia escalated in February after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was driven from office by a protest movement made up of people who want closer ties with the European Union.



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Ukrainian troops sit and stand atop vehicles as they leave a site of a battle in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Friday, June 13, 2014. Ukraine?s interior
Ukrainian troops sit and stand atop vehicles as they leave a site of a battle in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Friday, June 13, 2014. Ukraine?s interior minister says that government troops have attacked pro-Russian separatists in the southern port of Mariupol. Arsen Avakov said Friday that four government troops were wounded as forces retook buildings occupied by the rebels in the center of the town. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka) (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

A man rides a bicycle as he passes a site of a battle between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian fighters in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Friday, June 13,
A man rides a bicycle as he passes a site of a battle between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian fighters in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Friday, June 13, 2014. Ukraine?s interior minister says that government troops have attacked pro-Russian separatists in the southern port of Mariupol. Arsen Avakov said Friday that four government troops were wounded as forces retook buildings occupied by the rebels in the center of the town. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka) (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

A local woman prepares to take pictures of a site of a battle  between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian fighters in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Friday, June
A local woman prepares to take pictures of a site of a battle between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian fighters in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Friday, June 13, 2014. Ukraine?s interior minister says that government troops have attacked pro-Russian separatists in the southern port of Mariupol. Arsen Avakov said Friday that four government troops were wounded as forces retook buildings occupied by the rebels in the center of the town. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka) (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)