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ROSTOV-ON-DON, August 17, 18:18 /ITAR-TASS/. A total of 17 Ukrainian servicemen who crossed the border to Russia in the southern Russian Rostov Region on Saturday have been brought back to their country, a spokesman for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) regional border department said Sunday.
“They crossed to our territory on Saturday morning and were in the border area of the Matveyev-Kurgan District. Today an armored Ural truck brought them to the Veselo-Voznesenka border crossing point, where they were handed to the Ukrainian side,” Nikolai Sinitsyn said.
“A bus took them on Ukrainian territory,” Sinitsyn said.
Earlier he said that “prior to crossing the border with the Russian Federation, the servicemen threw down arms at their side of the border.”
Incidents when soldiers from the Ukrainian side cross into Russian territory have been reported recently amid fierce clashes between troops loyal to Kiev and local militias in the southeastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk regions. In one such incident, 438 Ukrainian servicemen on August 4 asked Russian border guards to let them cross the border to Russia. The soldiers returned to Ukraine later.
The Ukrainian armed forces have been conducting since mid-April a military operation to regain control over the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which on May 11 proclaimed their independence at local referendums.
In the operation, Kiev has used armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in it. Many buildings have been destroyed and tens of thousands of people have had to flee Ukraine’s embattled Southeast.