KIEV, Ukraine — Seven Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 24 wounded, officials said Monday as fighting in the east of the country reached its worst level since a cease-fire that was agreed in September.
Pro-Russia rebels have launched an offensive on the port city of Mariupol and vowed to encircle the town of Debaltseve, Kiev military spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said. Thirty civilians were killed in shelling in Mariupol on Saturday.
Russia blamed Kiev for the surge in violence and urged the West not to show its support with actions such as imposing new sanctions on Moscow. Russia has denied sending arms and troops to back the rebels and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the separatists were responding to attacks by Ukrainian government forces.
He urged the West not to whip up anti-Russia hysteria and said it would have been naive to believe the separatists would accept being shelled by government forces without responding.
Meanwhile, diplomats from Ukraine and its 28 NATO allies were due to meet Monday at Ukraine's request on Monday to discuss the new flare-up in fighting.
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