Fifteen Ukrainian soldiers killed in latest fighting

Fighting between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian forces in the east of the country has left 15 government soldiers dead and 30 wounded over the past 24 hours, Ukraine's defence minister said Saturday.

"In the last day, 15 soldiers died and 30 more were wounded. That is the figure for the whole frontline," minister Stepan Poltorak told journalists.

The death toll is the highest one-day loss for Ukraine's military since the signing in September of a nominal ceasefire deal that has collapsed totally in recent weeks.

Fighting is raging around the strategic Ukrainian-controlled transport hub of Debaltseve, some 50 kilometres (35 miles) north-east of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

Poltorak for the first time said that separatists forces had taken "partial" control of the key town, where rebels claimed previously to have surrounded thousands of Ukrainian troops.

The rebels on Friday said that they had taken the town of Vuglegirsk -- some ten kilometres from Debaltseve -- after Russian television footage showed heavy street fighting in the ravaged location.

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