KIEV/DONETSK, Ukraine – The separatists battled to break through lines of government forces near the border with Russia in eastern Ukraine, and a tentative step towards agreeing a ceasefire in the intensifying three-month conflict failed.
Fighting has escalated sharply since Ukrainian forces pushed rebels out of their stronghold in the town of Slaviansk 10 days ago. The past several days have seen Russia and Ukraine trade accusations of firing across the border. Ukraine's military said 11 more troops were killed in the space of 24 hours, mostly in clashes near the frontier.
Ukraine has been trying to put down a revolt by heavily-armed fighters, many of them from Russia, who have sought independence for two eastern provinces since April. Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March after a pro-Russian president was ousted in Kiev.
Moscow denies supporting the separatists in eastern Ukraine, but Kiev says many of the fighters and their leaders have travelled from Russia and brought heavy weapons across the border. Ukrainian troops have focussed their efforts in recent days on securing the frontier to prevent the arrival of more fighters and weapons.
Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine's defence and security council, told journalists the separatists had attacked government positions along the border overnight.