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Ukraine troops returning from Crimea 'heroes': Ministry

AFP , Saturday 22 Mar 2014
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Ukraine's defence ministry on Saturday said that troops returning from Crimea following Russia's annexation of the strategic Black Sea peninsula were "heroes" and not deserters.

In an online statement, the ministry sought to counter misinformation about Ukraine's armed forces being "actively spread by the Russian special services".

The ministry denied reports that "units leaving the peninsula for the mainland would be dissolved, and that Ukrainian prosecutors were pursuing soldiers for high treason".

It said the soldiers who served in Crimea were "genuine heroes for all Ukrainians".

The authorities were looking into the possibility of granting these soldiers the status of veterans "for demonstrating strength and courage".

This would guarantee them financial support, said the defence ministry.

"None of the soldiers in Crimea -- patriots who have not betrayed their oath of loyalty to the Ukrainian nation -- will be forgotten," it added.

Many of the thousands of Ukrainian soldiers who were surrounded by pro-Russian forces in Crimea last month have left their posts without a fight, as Moscow annexed the peninsula.

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