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Rebels have been trying for weeks to break out of an area further north in the Donetsk region where they are almost encircled. Analysts say the separatists could also be seeking a land link between Russia and Crimea, which also would give them control over the entire Sea of Azov.
An armoured column including 32 tanks and 30 trucks has crossed the border into Ukraine from Russia, Kiev says. The convoy included trucks carrying ammunition and fighters, a military spokesman added. A fragile ceasefire has been in place since 5 September, although hundreds of people have been killed since then.