World

Ukraine: 9 troops killed, 29 wounded as Russia-backed forces close in on road and railway hub

  • People pay their final respects to the Bobylev family, Mykola Bobylev, his wife  Lyubov, daughter Maryna and three-year-old grandson Vyacheslav, who were killed during a Saturday attack in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Tuesday Jan. 27, 2015. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Sergey Vaganov)

    People pay their final respects to the Bobylev family, Mykola Bobylev, his wife Lyubov, daughter Maryna and three-year-old grandson Vyacheslav, who were killed during a Saturday attack in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Tuesday Jan. 27, 2015. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Sergey Vaganov)  (The Associated Press)

  • Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitors investigate outside an apartment building damaged in Saturday's shelling in which scores of people were killed and injured in Mariupol, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. European Union leaders are threatening fresh sanctions against Russia because of what it sees as "growing support" of Moscow for separatists in eastern Ukraine during intensified fighting over the past days. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

    Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitors investigate outside an apartment building damaged in Saturday's shelling in which scores of people were killed and injured in Mariupol, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. European Union leaders are threatening fresh sanctions against Russia because of what it sees as "growing support" of Moscow for separatists in eastern Ukraine during intensified fighting over the past days. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)  (The Associated Press)

  • Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitors investigate outside a kindergarten damaged in Saturday's shelling in which scores of people were killed and injured in Mariupol, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. European Union leaders are threatening fresh sanctions against Russia because of what it sees as "growing support" of Moscow for separatists in eastern Ukraine during intensified fighting over the past days. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

    Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitors investigate outside a kindergarten damaged in Saturday's shelling in which scores of people were killed and injured in Mariupol, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. European Union leaders are threatening fresh sanctions against Russia because of what it sees as "growing support" of Moscow for separatists in eastern Ukraine during intensified fighting over the past days. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)  (The Associated Press)

Ukraine says that intensified fighting against Russia-backed separatists has left nine servicemen dead and 29 wounded over the past day.

Armed forces spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said Tuesday that some of the fiercest fighting was around the town of Debaltseve, where separatists were attacking from two sides in an attempt to surround the Ukrainian forces.

Debaltseve is a road and railway hub to the northeast of Donetsk, the main rebel-held city in eastern Ukraine.

A lull in the fighting in December had raised hopes for a peaceful settlement, but hostilities have escalated again in recent weeks as the rebels launched a series of new offensives.

Russia has blamed the renewed fighting on the Ukrainian side, accusing it of trying to settle the conflict by force.