by Staff Writers
Kiev (AFP) Feb 1, 2015
At least 19 people, including 13 Ukrainian troops, have been killed in fighting with pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country over the last 24 hours, officials and rebels said Sunday.
At least 20 Ukrainian troops were also wounded, said Ukrainian defence official Volodymyr Poliovyi, as separatists pushed their offensive around key transport hub Debaltseve the day after truce talks collapsed.
Six civilians died in fighting in the self-declared separatist region of Donetsk and around Lugansk, officials and rebels said.
The latest casualties came after the collapse of peace talks in Minsk on Saturday aimed at thrashing out a ceasefire agreement to halt fighting that has killed more than 5,100 people since April 2014.
15 Ukrainian soldiers killed in past 24 hours: army
"In the last day, 15 soldiers died and 30 more were wounded. That is the figure for the whole frontline," minister Stepan Poltorak told journalists.
The death toll is the highest one-day loss for Ukraine's military since the signing in September of a nominal ceasefire deal that has collapsed totally in recent weeks.
Fighting is raging around the strategic Ukrainian-controlled transport hub of Debaltseve, some 50 kilometres (35 miles) north-east of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.
Poltorak for the first time said that separatists forces had taken "partial" control of the key town, where rebels claimed previously to have surrounded thousands of Ukrainian troops.
The rebels on Friday said that they had taken the town of Vuglegirsk -- some ten kilometres from Debaltseve -- after Russian television footage showed heavy street fighting in the ravaged location.
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