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Ukraine negotiates return of soldiers 'forced to retreat' into Russia

However, reports from Russia suggest that the troops deserted.

Ukraine negotiates return of soldiers 'forced to retreat' into Russia
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  • Ukrainian soldiers in Russia

    Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Ukrainian soldiers in Russia

    Source: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko
  • Ukrainian soldiers in Russia

    Source: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko
  • Ukrainian soldiers in Russia

    Source: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko
  • Ukrainian soldiers in Russia

THE UKRAINIAN MILITARY has said it is currently negotiating the return of as many as 300 troops from Russia after they were forced to retreat across the border.

Authorities said hours of missile and mortar bombardment from across the border forced them to fall back.

Russia’s security service said border guards had allowed the Ukrainians to cross after they agreed to give up their weapons.

However, reports from across the border differ. The Interfax news agency reports that the troops had deserted, and while 180 had retreated, the future of 300 was unclear, Euronews reports.

The Ukrainian military is warning citizens to leave the rebel bastion of Donetsk, with some officials suggesting that a major offensive is planned.

Ukraine Pro-Russian rebels ride their APC and truck as they celebrate Paratroopers' Day in the city of Donetsk. Source: AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky

Thousands have already fled, with authorities urging separatist rebels in Donetsk, Lugansk and another frontline city Gorlivka to agree to “humanitarian corridors” for several hours each day to allow civilians to flee the besieged cities.

“Yesterday, forces from the Ukrainian anti-terrorist operation occupied the city of Yasinuvata, 19 kilometres (12 miles) north of Donetsk, which is an important railway hub,” Ukrainian security spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists.

The seizure of the town allowed for the encirclement of Donetsk from the north and the closing down of an important channel for the supply of weapons and technology to the terrorists.

Over 100,000 people have fled for other parts of Ukraine since the fighting erupted in April, according to the United Nations

The military advances against pro-Moscow separatists came as more remains from the downed MH17 plane were flown to the Netherlands for identification, and Malaysian experts joined the Dutch and Australian probe at the site of the July 17 crash.

Clashes between the Ukrainian military and rebels can still be heard close to the crash site, with the head of the Dutch police mission saying that access is “never 100% guaranteed”.

Additional reporting © AFP, 2014

Read: Shelling hampers search as experts continue to scour MH17 site >

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Nicky Ryan

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