Ukraine and Russia exchange captured troops

Ukrainian loyalist fighters from the Azov Battalion stand guard on a hill on the outskirts of Mariupol on August 30 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ukrainian troops are fighting a Russian advance near Mariupol

Ten Russian paratroopers captured inside Ukraine a week ago have returned home following a troop exchange, Russian media report.

Russia's military said it had released 63 captured Ukrainian soldiers in exchange for the paratroopers.

Pro-Russian rebels have made gains against Ukrainian troops in recent days in Donetsk and Luhansk in the east.

The conflict in the east erupted in April following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's southern Crimea peninsula.

Some 2,600 people have died in fighting so far.

Image copyright Ukrainian Ministry of Defence
Image caption Russian sources said the captured paratroopers were patrolling a section of the Russian-Ukrainian border

Major-General Alexei Ragozin, the deputy commander of Russia's paratroop forces, told the RIA news agency that negotiations had been "very difficult".

"The talks were not easy, but common sense prevailed and everything turned out well" he said.

However, he criticised the length of the soldiers' detention.

"I find it unacceptable that the Ukrainian side kept our soldiers for so many days" he said.

"Our lads are upset about everything that happened. They will all receive the necessary psychological and other kinds of help" he added.

Ukraine released video interviews with the captured Russian soldiers last week.

It says the soldiers were captured 20km from the border with Russia.

Russia claimed that the soldiers had crossed in Ukraine "by accident" after inadvertently crossing an unmarked section of the border.

Russia has repeatedly denied Ukrainian and Western accusations that it is supporting the rebels.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ukraine has long insisted Russian is sending troops and hardware to support eastern rebels
Image copyright AP
Image caption Pro-Russian rebels say their counter-offensive will be continuing

The 63 Ukrainian soldiers released were said to have entered Russia to escape the upsurge in fighting last week.

War in eastern Ukraine: The human cost

  • At least 2,593 people killed since mid-April (not including 298 passengers and crew of Malaysian Airlines MH17, shot down in the area) - UN report on 29 August
  • 951 civilians killed in Donetsk region alone, official regional authorities said - 20 August
  • In some particularly dangerous places, such as Luhansk region, victims are said to have been buried informally, making accurate counts difficult
  • Rebels (and some military sources) accuse the government of concealing true numbers
  • 155,800 people have fled elsewhere in Ukraine while at least 188,000 have gone to Russia

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