10 Feb 2015

Ukrainian rebels advance on key town of Debaltseve

Pro-Russian separatist fighters advance on Ukrainian troops outside the town of Debaltseve, with some reports that the rebels have encircled the area.

Seven Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 23 wounded in fighting in Ukraine’s eastern regions in the past 24 hours, the Kiev military said on Tuesday morning.

A spokesman said government forces had come under attack from the rebels on 87 separate occasions since Monday with fighting particularly intense around the town of Debaltseve, a major rail and road junction northeast of the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

Overnight from February 10 to 11 there was an increase in attacks by the enemy on Ukrainian positions Kiev spokesman Anatoly Stelmakh

Debaltseve has been the scene of intense fighting for more than a week.

There are reports that rebel fighters have encircled Debaltseve and cut off a key supply road but government forces insist that fighting over the road was ongoing.

Russian exercises

Meanwhile, around 2,000 Russian troops have started exercises in southern Russia, the Russian news agency Interfax reported on Tuesday.

On Monday US President Barack Obama said that prospects of a military solution to the Ukraine crisis are were low because of the strength of Russia’s military.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Washington with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Obama said it was clear Russia had violated “just about every commitment they made at the Minsk agreement” and that Russian aggression had only reinforced international unity.

“We agreed that sanctions on Russia need to remain fully in force until Russia complies,” he said. “We are making it clear again today that if Russia continues on its current course… Russia’s isolation will only worsen, both politically and economically.”

More than 5,000 people have died since fighting began in eastern Ukraine according to the UN, although it fears the real figure may be “considerably higher”.