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Captured Russian paratroopers return home in swap with Ukraine

Ten Russian paratroopers captured inside Ukraine nearly one week ago have returned home following a troop exchange, Russian media reported on Sunday (Aug 31).

MOSCOW: Ten Russian paratroopers captured inside Ukraine nearly one week ago have returned home following a troop exchange, Russian media reported on Sunday (Aug 31). In the early hours of Sunday the 10 paratroopers were handed over to Russian authorities at the Nekhoteyevka border crossing.

Russia in turn returned some 63 Ukrainian soldiers that had crossed onto its territory on Wednesday to flee fighting that has intensified during the past week. "The talks were not easy, but common sense prevailed and everything turned out well," the deputy commander of the Russian paratroop forces, said Major General Alexei Ragozin. "The most important is that all of our boys are back with us in Russia," he said.

Ukraine announced on Monday the capture of the 10 Russian paratroopers, who Moscow said had mistakenly crossed an unmarked area of the border while on patrol. Another ten paratroopers were injured and two killed from that unit when they came under attack by Ukrainian government forces, according to Russia's NTV television.

The capture of the paratroopers, and reports of secret funerals near Russian military bases, put Moscow on the spot regarding its involvement in a lightning counter-offensive by rag-tag pro-Russian rebels that has seen them push back Ukrainian soldiers.

Russia continued to deny that its regular troops were deployed in Ukraine or that it had supplied equipment to the rebels, but NATO said on Thursday that Moscow had well over 1,000 troops on the ground in Ukraine and 20,000 massed by the border. The ten Russian paratroopers handed back were sent to Moscow for medical and psychological treatment, NTV reported.