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Published: Saturday August 9, 2014 MYT 2:30:03 AM
Updated: Saturday August 9, 2014 MYT 2:31:15 AM

Five Ukrainian soldiers who crossed in Russia arrested

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Five Ukrainian soldiers have been arrested on suspicion of shelling civilian areas of eastern Ukraine and firing into Russia, a Russian law-enforcement agency said on Friday.

The five were among some 300 Ukrainian soldiers and border guards who were forced by fighting in eastern Ukraine to cross into Russia on Monday, Ukraine said earlier this week.

Most of those troops have since been returned to Ukraine, but Russia's Investigative Committee, a law-enforcement agency that reports directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said it detained five officers from a Ukrainian mechanised brigade.

The Russian agency said it had evidence the brigade had fired indiscriminately between July 19 and Aug 3 into the cities of Krasnodon and Chervonopartizansk in the Luhansk region, one of two the rebels want to detach from Kiev.

"As a result, no less than 10 civilians were wounded or killed" and at least 20 buildings damaged, the investigators said, adding that the attack had been confirmed by other Ukrainian soldiers who were questioned.

The five men, who include two battalion commanders, face up to 20 years in jail if convicted under laws on banned methods of warfare.

The committee said it was also investigating whether the five were involved in shelling Russian territory. Moscow has complained several times that the Ukrainian military has fired across the border onto its territory.

A Ukrainian military spokesman said in Kiev on Thursday the five were among 18 against whom Russia had opened criminal investigations. Twenty-eight Ukrainian border guard officers were also being held in Russia, he said.

Ukrainian troops are fighting separatist rebels in pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine. Kiev and the West accuse Russia of actively supporting and arming the rebels, which Moscow denies.

The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia. Moscow has retaliated with counter sanctions and trade restrictions of its own.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Larry King)

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