400+ Ukraine Soldiers Cross Into Russia

But whether they're deserting or were escaping enemy fire is anybody's guess
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Suggested by ivan
Posted Aug 4, 2014 12:58 PM CDT
400+ Ukraine Soldiers Cross Into Russia
A Ukrainian government army soldier rests on his tank at a block-post in the village of Debaltseve, eastern Ukraine Friday, Aug. 1, 2014.   (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Of this, we are sure: More than 400 soldiers of the Ukrainian government crossed the border into Russia today. Exactly what they're doing there, predictably, is the subject of much contention. Over at RT, Russia is claiming that the 438 soldiers "have been allowed to cross into Russia after requesting sanctuary" in what it's calling "the largest, but not the first, case of desertion into Russia by Ukrainian soldiers involved in Kiev’s military crackdown." Other sources, including al-Jazeera, report that while Ukraine confirms the crossing, it says its forces were driven across the border by fire from pro-Russia separatists.

A Ukraine spokesman said his soldiers "fired their weapons until no ammunition remained, after which they abandoned their position and reached a place near a border crossing on Russian territory." RT depicts the soldiers' condition as pretty dire, quoting one as saying, "We have been in those fields for more than six months and are very tired." A Russian border patrol official later said that some 180 of the soldiers had returned across the border. But the Ukraine spokesman, asked to confirm the number of troops who'd crossed the border in the first place, noted, "We do not have such information. The Russians are capable of claiming anything they want." (More Ukraine stories.)

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