KIEV, Ukraine - Government troops fought to gain control of the rebel-held city of Donetsk and a key highway in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday — battles that left 34 residents and nine troops dead in just 24 hours, authorities said. Ukrainian troops are trying to encircle Donetsk, the largest city still in rebel hands, and also drive the rebels out of the city of Luhansk. Several neighborhoods in Donetsk have been hit with artillery fire in recent days and fighting on the outskirts has intensified.
The Kiev-backed administration in Donetsk quoted the death toll of 34 "local residents" killed and 29 wounded as of noon Wednesday, a figure it said didn't include any government troop deaths. Earlier, a Ukrainian official said nine troops were killed and 22 wounded in overnight fighting in Ilovaysk, a town near Donetsk, as the government sought to retake a major railroad and highway that leads to Russia. Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security Council who gave that toll, said fighting continued in Ilovaysk on Wednesday even though government forces have gained control of the town.
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