Ukrainian troops seek asylum in Russia
Updated: 2014-08-05 09:09
Soldiers of the Ukrainian government's forces in a tent camp. 438 members of the Ukrainian government troops crossed the border to Russia on the night between 3 and 4 July and officially requested asylum in Russia. [Photo/IC]
KIEV - 438 Ukrainian soldiers and border guards who had crossed into Russia were seeking asylum, Russian border authorities said.
In Moscow, authorities acknowledged that Ukrainian troops had crossed into Russian territory and Russian border guards said they had crossed during the night seeking asylum.
"They were tired of the war and wanted no further part in it," Vasily Malayev, spokesman for the border guards in the Rostov region of Russia, said by telephone. However, he added that 180 would be returned to Ukraine later on Monday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking to Itar-Tass and Rossiya24 TV, said Russia would facilitate the return of the Ukrainian soldiers but suggested they would be vulnerable to prosecution for desertion once they returned home.
"I expect Ukrainian authorities to understand that it is absolutely unacceptable, when Ukrainians ... are forced to fight with their own people, to treat those who refuse to do so as traitors to the motherland," Lavrov said.
Ukrainian defence spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Kiev was now negotiating with Russian authorities for their return.