ARTEMIVSK, Ukraine — A battle for a railroad town in eastern Ukraine escalated sharply on Tuesday, with both the Ukrainian army and Russian-backed militants saying that their soldiers were engaging in pitched street battles.
By midday, the separatists said they had captured the town, Debaltseve, a separatist news agency reported. The Ukrainian military denied the claim, saying its soldiers were repelling the attacks.
“An intense fight is underway now on the outskirts of Debaltseve,” Ukraine’s military spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, said in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. “There are engagements near the train station. But our soldiers are holding their positions, and they have full authority to return fire.”
A separatist official asserted Tuesday that 300 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered. His claim could not be independently confirmed.
In Kiev, Mr. Lysenko, the Ukrainian military spokesman, said that “the pro-Russian propaganda claims soldiers are surrendering, and that we are asking for a corridor to get out.”
“In fact,” he said, “the situation looks different. The enemy requires ever more personnel and weaponry, and fire support from their artillery continues.”