Battle said raging despite Ukraine truce

Feb 17, 2015, 7:40 AM EST
Pro-Russian separatists fire shots in the air during the funeral ceremony of several pro-Russian rebels at a cemetery in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on February 16, 2015.
AFP/Getty Images

Fierce fighting is reported inside the key Ukrainian town of Debaltseve despite a ceasefire deal agreed last week, according to the BBC.

Rebels say they have taken most of Debaltseve, a transport hub, but the government says it is still in control.

International observers tasked with monitoring the ceasefire have been unable to enter the town. Earlier, both sides failed to begin withdrawing heavy weapons, despite a Monday deadline agreed in the truce.

The two sides were given until two days after the latest ceasefire came into effect to start the pullout. A spokesman for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic told Russian news agency Interfax that the police station in Debaltseve had been taken as well as the railway station.

He said most of the city was under the control of the separatists and that a mopping-up operation was continuing. The rebels also said that dozens of Ukrainian troops in Debaltseve had surrendered and others had been killed.

The European Union kept pressure on Russia and the rebels by announcing a new list of separatists and Russians targeted with sanctions, Reuters writes, to which Moscow promised an "adequate" response.

The United States said it was "gravely concerned" by the fighting in and around the town of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine after a ceasefire agreement that came into force on Sunday and said it was closely monitoring reports of a new column of Russian military equipment moving toward the region.

"These aggressive actions and statements by the Russia-backed separatists threaten the most recent ceasefire," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

"We call on Russia and the separatists it backs to halt all attacks immediately."