Fighting intensifies between Ukrainian military and pro-Russian rebels

Towns become battlegrounds in eastern Ukraine... 01:56

Things are going from bad to worse in Ukraine.

In response to the growing violence, NATO said Friday it will set up command units in six neighboring countries. NATO and the U.S. accuse Russia of arming the rebels who are fighting Ukrainian troops in the east.

The battles are ferocious. Pro-Russian rebel fighters are pushing forward under heavy fire, trying to surround the Ukrainian military who so far appear to be holding on.

The town of Debaltseve is a strategic prize with key rail and road links. But the whole area is a battleground where sporadic shelling kills civilians randomly -- as it did Friday in Donetsk, where at least 12 civilians died.

Some families have sought refuge underground where it's safe, but where there's little light or heat, and no prospect of life returning to normal anytime soon.

Violence spirals in east Ukraine 02:07

In the nearby town of Svitlodarsk, after the local hospital was destroyed by rocket fire, local authorities loaded the children onto buses to get them out of range. But there wasn't enough room for parents.

"Why not us?" asked one of the mothers. "Are we being left here to die?"

At a field hospital up the road where Ukrainian soldiers are being treated in a makeshift operating room, doctors say they are seeing a steady flow civilians of all ages, both wounded and dead.

Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Kiev next Thursday for talks with the Ukrainians, and will meet with Russia's Foreign Minister on Friday in Germany. However, at this point, there's no plans for direct peace talks between the two warring sides.

  • Elizabeth Palmer
    Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."