Ukrainian soldiers cross border into Russia

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Turmoil in East Ukraine
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Ukrainian soldiers cross border into Russia
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 28: A photojournalist takes photo of destroyed Ukranian tank during the clashes between Ukranian army and pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, Ukraine on 28 July, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 28: Pro-Russian separatists shot the building during the clashes between Ukranian army in Donetsk, Ukraine on 28 July, 2014. Ukranian army capture the region after the clashes. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 28: A gas station is destroyed by pro-Russian separatists during the clashes between Ukranian army in Donetsk, Ukraine on 28 July, 2014. Ukranian army capture the region after the clashes. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 28: A damaged building is seen after the Ukrainian army seized control of the Ukraine's Sievierodonetsk over pro-Russian seperatists on July 28, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 28: A damaged building is seen after the Ukrainian army seized control of the Ukraine's Sievierodonetsk over pro-Russian seperatists on July 28, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 28: A damaged building is seen after the Ukrainian army seized control of the Ukraine's Sievierodonetsk over pro-Russian seperatists on July 28, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 28: A damaged building is seen after the Ukrainian army seized control of the Ukraine's Sievierodonetsk over pro-Russian seperatists on July 28, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A body of a pro-Russian gunman lies in a truck at a checkpoint outside of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, who was killed during a battle between pro-Russian militiamen and Ukrainian forces in the town of Karlivka on May 23, 2014. At least five people were killed in fighting early Friday between pro-Russian militiamen and Ukrainian forces near the eastern city of Donetsk, an AFP photographer said. Fighting in the east has witnessed a bloody resurgence ahead of Sunday's presidential election that the pro-Russian insurgents have vowed to disrupt. AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF (Photo credit should read DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-Russian militiamen take a rest at a checkpoint in Pisky, some 15 km from Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on the road between Donetsk and Krasnoarmiisk, on May 23, 2014. At least five people were killed in fighting early Friday between pro-Russian militiamen and Ukrainian forces near Donetsk, an AFP photographer said. Fighting in the east has witnessed a bloody resurgence ahead of Sunday's presidential election that the pro-Russian insurgents have vowed to disrupt. AFP PHOTO / FABIO BUCCIARELLI (Photo credit should read FABIO BUCCIARELLI/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-Russian gunmen stand at a checkpoint outside of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on May 23, 2014. At least five people were killed in fighting early Friday between pro-Russian militiamen and Ukrainian forces near Donetsk, an AFP photographer said. Fighting in the east has witnessed a bloody resurgence ahead of Sunday's presidential election that the pro-Russian insurgents have vowed to disrupt. AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF *** GRAPHIC CONTENT *** (Photo credit should read DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) and Swiss President and Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter (R) walk into a hall to attend a news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow, on May 7, 2014. Putin called on separatists in east Ukraine on Wednesday to postpone a referendum on independence for the mostly Russian-speaking region and said Moscow had withdrawn troops from the border with Ukraine. AFP PHOTO / POOL / SERGEI KARPUKHIN (Photo credit should read SERGEI KARPUKHIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Ukrainian military helicopter lands at a checkpoint which troops seized in the early morning in the village of Andreevka, 7 kms from the centre of the southern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on May 2, 2014. Ukraine's military lost two helicopters and two servicemen on May 2 in a deadly offensive launched just before dawn against pro-Russian rebels holding the flashpoint town of Slavyansk, insurgents and authorities said. AFP PHOTO / VASILY MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - MAY 2: The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense announced that four pro-Russian separatists, who shot allegedly two Ukrainian helicopters down detained in Donetsk, Ukraine on May 2, 2014. Two Ukrainian helicopters were shot down, killing a pilot and serviceman during military operations against armed pro-Russian separatists in the east of Slavyansk on Friday. (Photo by Ukrainian Ministry of Defense/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A helicopter lands near a tank at a checkpoint seized in the early morning in the village of Andreevka, 7 km from the center of the southern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on May 2, 2014. Ukraine's military lost two helicopters and two servicemen on May 2 in a deadly offensive launched just before dawn against pro-Russian rebels holding the flashpoint town of Slavyansk, insurgents and authorities said. AFP PHOTO / VASILY MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A girlfriend and a relative say their goodbyes to a new volunteer recruit of the Ukrainian army 'Azov' battalion after a military oath ceremony in Kiev and before his contingent heads towards eastern regions, on June 23, 2014. Some 600 new volunteer recruits of the battalion, mainly representatives of the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine, who followed combat training during three weeks will take part in the military operation against armed pro-Russian militants in the east of the country. Ukraine pressed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other Western allies today to help end a pro-Russian uprising that has continued to rage in the industrial east despite Kiev's unilateral ceasefire. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
New volunteer recruits of the Ukrainian army 'Donbass' battalion take a military oath during a ceremony of the National Guard unit near the Novi Petrivtsi village not far from Kiev, on June 23, 2014. Some 600 new volunteer recruits of the battalion, mainly representatives of the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine, who followed combat training during three weeks will take part in the military operation against armed pro-Russian militants in the east of the country. Ukraine pressed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other Western allies today to help end a pro-Russian uprising that has continued to rage in the industrial east despite Kiev's unilateral ceasefire. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
New volunteer recruits of the Ukrainian army 'Donbass' battalion take part in a military oath ceremony of the National Guard near the Novi Petrivtsi village not far from Kiev, on June 23, 2014. Some 600 new volunteer recruits of the battalion, mainly representatives of the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine, who followed combat training during three weeks will take part in the military operation against armed pro-Russian militants in the east of the country. Ukraine pressed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other Western allies today to help end a pro-Russian uprising that has continued to rage in the industrial east despite Kiev's unilateral ceasefire. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
New volunteer recruits of the Ukrainian army 'Azov' battalion take part in a military oath ceremony in Kiev, on June 23, 2014. Some 600 new volunteer recruits of the battalion, mainly representatives of the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine, who followed combat training during three weeks will take part in the military operation against armed pro-Russian militants in the east of the country. Ukraine pressed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other Western allies today to help end a pro-Russian uprising that has continued to rage in the industrial east despite Kiev's unilateral ceasefire. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
A new volunteer recruit of the Ukrainian army 'Donbass' battalion flashes a 'victory sign' during a military oath ceremony of the National Guard near the Novi Petrivtsi village not far from Kiev, on June 23, 2014. Some 600 new volunteer recruits of the battalion, mainly representatives of the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine, who followed combat training during three weeks will take part in the military operation against armed pro-Russian militants in the east of the country. Ukraine pressed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other Western allies today to help end a pro-Russian uprising that has continued to rage in the industrial east despite Kiev's unilateral ceasefire. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
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By LAURA MILLS
Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) -- A Russian border security official said more than 400 Ukrainian soldiers crossed into Russia, according to a report from the Interfax news agency. It wasn't immediately clear why the soldiers entered Russia, with both sides giving conflicting accounts.

The Russian official said the soldiers deserted the Kiev government and the Russian side opened a safe corridor, while a Ukrainian military official said the soldiers, without giving a number, were forced into Russian territory by rebel fire after running out of ammunition.

Vasily Malayev, head of the Federal Security Service's border patrol in the Rostov region, told Interfax that 438 Ukrainian soldiers had reached Russia on Monday. He said the Russian side had allowed the soldiers to safely enter the country.

Russia's Defense Ministry couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

The Ukrainian military confirmed that part of a brigade had most likely crossed into Russian territory, although it disputed Russia's version of events and wouldn't say how many soldiers went over.

A spokesman for the Ukrainian military operation in the east, Oleksiy Dmitrashkovsky, said troops from the army's 72nd brigade were penned into their position and came under a sustained barrage of fire from separatist forces. Rebel fighters used tanks, mortars, artillery and Grad missile launchers over four hours, Dmitrashkovsky said, and eventually the brigade was forced to divide up into two sections.

"One was meant to break out and join forces with a support unit. The other unit had the task of providing fire cover," Dmitrashkovsky said. "In doing that they fired their weapons until no ammunition remained, after which they abandoned their position and reached a place near a border crossing on Russian territory."

Dmitrashkovsky said it was too early to confirm how many soldiers had crossed into Russia.

"We do not have such information. The Russians are capable of claiming anything they want," he said.

Earlier Monday, Interfax reported that Russia's air force began military drills in central and western regions of the country, a move that could spark further fears that Moscow is ready to flex its military muscle in Ukraine.

The drills will start Monday and last through Friday, air force chief Igor Klimov was reported as saying, and will involve more than 100 fighter jets and helicopters.

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have been battling the Kiev government since April, a conflict that has claimed at least 1,129 civilian casualties, according to a U.N. estimate. Ukraine and Western countries have accused Russia of providing the rebels with equipment and expertise, a claim that the Russian government has repeatedly denied.

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Downed plane could alter course of Ukraine flight
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Ukrainian soldiers cross border into Russia
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 18: Search and rescue team search for human remains amongst the wreckages of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it was downed close to Russia's border with Ukraine on July 17, 2014, near the town of Donetsk, Ukraine on July 18, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 18: People prepare white ribbon tied to a stick which indicates the presence of human remains, amongst the wreckages of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it was downed close to Russia's border with Ukraine on July 17, 2014, near the town of Donetsk, Ukraine on July 18, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONESTK, UKRAINE - JULY 18: A monkey toy is seen amongst the wreckages of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it was downed close to Russia's border with Ukraine on July 17, 2014, near the town of Donetsk, Ukraine on July 18, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
People gather next to a sign reading AIDS 2014 in Melbourne on July 18, 2014 after news that downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was carrying many participants headed to the 20th International AIDS Conference planned this weekend in the Australian city. The world AIDS community was in mourning on July 18 with as many as 100 passengers reportedly on the crashed Malaysia Airlines plane heading to Australia for the global conference on the epidemic. Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, which US officials believe was hit by a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 people on board, was due to connect with another flight to Melbourne. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 18: A part of plane is seen amongst the wreckages of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it was downed close to Russia's border with Ukraine on July 17, 2014, near the town of Donetsk, Ukraine on July 18, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
People lay flowers and light candles in front of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kiev on July 17, 2014, to commemorate passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur which crashed in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on July 17 that the Malaysia Airlines jet that crashed over rebel-held eastern Ukraine may have been shot down.' Ukraine's government and pro-Russian insurgents traded blame for the disaster, with comments attributed to a rebel commander suggesting his men may have downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by mistake, believing it was a Ukrainian army transport plane. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
A man lights a candle in front of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kiev on July 17, 2014, to commemorate passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur which crashed in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on July 17 that the Malaysia Airlines jet that crashed over rebel-held eastern Ukraine may have been shot down.' Ukraine's government and pro-Russian insurgents traded blame for the disaster, with comments attributed to a rebel commander suggesting his men may have downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by mistake, believing it was a Ukrainian army transport plane. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman lights a candle near a placard reading 'Stop Russian terrorism!' in front of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kiev on July 17, 2014 to commemorate passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur which crashed in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on July 17 that the Malaysia Airlines jet that crashed over rebel-held eastern Ukraine may have been shot down.' Ukraine's government and pro-Russian insurgents traded blame for the disaster, with comments attributed to a rebel commander suggesting his men may have downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by mistake, believing it was a Ukrainian army transport plane. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 18: A temporary memorial for the 298 victims of shot down Malaysian jetliner Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur the previous evening is seen outside of the embassy of the Netherlands, on July 18, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed killing all 298 on board including 80 children. The aircraft was allegedly shot down by a missile and investigations continue over the perpetrators of the attack. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Alexander Hug, (R) Deputy Chief Monitor of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe's (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, talks with a Pro-Russian separatist at the site of the crash of a Malaysian airliner carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in Grabove, in rebel-held east Ukraine, on July 18, 2014. Members of the UN Security Council demanded a full, independent investigation into the apparent shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
Alexander Hug, (2R) Deputy Chief Monitor of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe's (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine and members of his team wait to visit the site of the crash of a Malaysian airliner carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in Grabove, in rebel-held east Ukraine, on July 18, 2014. Members of the UN Security Council demanded a full, independent investigation into the apparent shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
People laiy flowers and light candles in front of the Netherlands Embassy in Kiev on July 18, 2014 in tribute for the 298 people who died after flight MH17 of Malaysia Airlines crashed in rebel-held east Ukraine. The Boeing 777 came down in cornfields in the separatist-held region yesterday, spraying debris and body parts for kilometres around, with the United States claiming it was shot down in a missile attack. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
A piece of wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is pictured on July 18, 2014 in Shaktarsk, the day after it crashed. Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, which US officials believe was hit by a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman lays flowers near a sign reading 'Putin kills children' in front of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kiev on July 18, 2014 to pay tribute to the 298 people who died after flight MH17 of Malaysia Airlines crashed in rebel-held east Ukraine. The Boeing 777 came down in cornfields in the separatist-held region yesterday, spraying debris and body parts for kilometres around, with the United States claiming it was shot down in a missile attack. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
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