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Ukraine: 13 troops killed, 20 wounded in fighting with Russia-backed separatists

  • Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, center, leaves the talks in Minsk, Belarus, late Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015.  Talks on the eastern Ukraine settlement collapsed on Saturday as Ukrainian envoy Leonid Kuchma said that the pro-Russian rebels refused to discuss steps to bring a cease-fire to the war-torn region. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

    Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, center, leaves the talks in Minsk, Belarus, late Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. Talks on the eastern Ukraine settlement collapsed on Saturday as Ukrainian envoy Leonid Kuchma said that the pro-Russian rebels refused to discuss steps to bring a cease-fire to the war-torn region. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)  (The Associated Press)

  • Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, right, and former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma leave the talks in Minsk, Belarus, late Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. Talks on the eastern Ukraine settlement collapsed on Saturday as Ukrainian envoy Leonid Kuchma said that the pro-Russian rebels refused to discuss steps to bring a cease-fire to the war-torn region. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

    Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, right, and former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma leave the talks in Minsk, Belarus, late Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. Talks on the eastern Ukraine settlement collapsed on Saturday as Ukrainian envoy Leonid Kuchma said that the pro-Russian rebels refused to discuss steps to bring a cease-fire to the war-torn region. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)  (The Associated Press)

  • A woman places flowers on one of 30 crosses placed by activists bearing the names of people who died in shelling in Mariupol on Jan, 24, outside the Russian Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

    A woman places flowers on one of 30 crosses placed by activists bearing the names of people who died in shelling in Mariupol on Jan, 24, outside the Russian Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)  (The Associated Press)

Ukraine says 13 of its servicemen have been killed and 20 wounded in the fighting with Russia-backed separatist forces over the past 24 hours.

Security Council spokesman Vladimir Polevoi said Sunday that the fiercest battles were still for control over Debaltseve, a government-held railway hub that the rebels need to further consolidate their control in eastern Ukraine.

The spokesman said the separatists were attacking several villages around Debaltseve.

An Associated Press journalist saw more than a dozen Ukrainian tanks and other heavy military vehicles, including a rocket launcher, heading toward Debaltseve on Sunday, apparently to reinforce the government troops.

A month of relative quiet in eastern Ukraine was shattered in early January by full-blown fighting as the separatists attempted to claw back additional territory from the government.