Fighting in Ukraine's mostly rebel-held region of Donetsk has killed 34 local residents and wounded 29 others in the past 24 hours, authorities have said.

Government troops trying to quell the pro-Russia insurgency in eastern Ukraine have been focusing on encircling Donetsk, the largest city still in rebel hands, and driving the rebels out of the city of Luhansk.

Live Box 20143812212184533

Several neighbourhoods in Donetsk have been hit with artillery fire in the last few days as fighting on the outskirts of the city has intensified.

The Donetsk regional administration quoted the death toll of 34 as of noon on Wednesday in a statement on its website.

Earlier, a Ukrainian official said nine troops were killed in overnight fighting in a town near Donetsk as the government battled to gain control of a major railroad and highway.

It was not immediately clear if those deaths were in addition to the 34 or included in that count, the AP news agency reported.

Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security Council, said nine soldiers were killed and 22 wounded from volunteer battalions in fighting in Ilovaysk overnight.

Such battalions recruited from around Ukraine have proved essential in the government offensive against armed separatists in the mainly Russian-speaking east.

Fighting is continuing in Ilovaysk after more than a day of hostilities although government forces have gained overall control over the town, Lysenko said.

Ilovaysk lies on a major railroad and a highway that connects the regional capital of Donetsk to the Russian border.

The Ukrainian government has also pursued diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict, which has killed more than 2,000 people and displaced 300,000 since fighting began in mid-April.

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko hosts German Chancellor Angela Merkel this weekend in Kiev before meeting next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin in what would be the first meeting between the two leaders since June.

Source: Agencies