Two novel cyclotriphosphazene ligands (2 and 3) bearing 3-oxypyridine groups and their corresponding Ru(II) complexes (4 and 5) were synthesized and their structures were characterized using Fourier transform infrared, H-1 NMR and P-31 NMR spectroscopic data and elemental analysis. The Ru(II) complexes were used as catalysts for catalytic transfer hydrogenation of p-substituted acetophenone derivatives in the presence of KOH. Additionally, the cytotoxic activities of compounds 2, 3, 4, 5 were evaluated against PC3 (human prostate cancer), DLD-1 (human colorectal cancer), HeLa (human cervical cancer) and PNT1A (normal human prostate) cell lines. Finally the antimicrobial activities of compounds 2, 3, 4, 5 were evaluated against a panel of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and yeast cultures. The complexes showed efficient catalytic activity towards transfer hydrogenation of acetophenone derivatives, especially those bearing electron-withdrawing substituents on the para-position of the aryl ring. The compounds were found to have moderate to high cytotoxic and antimicrobial activities, and Ru(II) complexation enhanced both cytotoxic and antimicrobial activities in comparison with the parent compounds. Copyright (c) 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.