DEBALTSEVE , Ukraine, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The strategic town of Debaltseve, Ukraine, was under heavy tank and artillery fire Friday from Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists.
The area, in Donetsk province, is the site of numerous confrontations between the two sides. Civilians are trapped in Debaltseve, and some wounded civilians have escaped to the nearby town of Artemivsk. Separatists claim a bus and cultural center in Donetsk were struck by artillery, and Russian media say seven civilians in Donetsk were killed.
"We are holding Debaltseve!!! There is fighting for Vuhlehirsk; half of the town is ours and fighting for the other half is fierce," Illia Kiva, deputy chief of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry in the Donetsk region wrote on Facebook Friday. Dmytro Tymchuk, of the separatist People's Front party, said on social media that both sides are exchanging massive artillery fire in Debaltseve, a town of 26,000, adding that the Ukrainian army has moved trucks and howitzers into the contested area.
The increase in aggression has erased a September cease-fire agreement, and Russia's representative to the watchdog security agency Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Andrei Kelin, accused Ukraine of abandoning a peace process and resorting to a military solution.
"We do not see the slightest signs of Kiev's willingness to stop the hostilities, to engage in dialogue with the opposing part of the population in eastern Ukraine, or to begin the process of political settlement," he said Thursday.