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Kiev government: Russian special forces soldiers captured in eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian MP Anton Gerashchenko on Sunday posted video showing an interview with one of the two soldiers as he lies wounded in bed.

By Fred Lambert

SHCHASTYA, Ukraine, May 17 (UPI) -- The Ukrainian government says it has captured two Russian soldiers during battles in the eastern part of the country.

Ukrainian MP Anton Gerashchenko on Sunday posted video online showing the questioning of one of the soldiers, who, according to the BBC, identifies himself as Aleksandr Aleksandrov -- a native of the central Russian city of Togliatti and a sergeant from the third special forces brigade.

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The Facebook post contained a message directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has repeatedly denied the deployment of troops to help pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Gerashchenko proposed an exchange of up to 400 Ukrainian prisoners for the two soldiers after Ukraine has "a fair and open trial of the two war criminals from Russia, whom you have sent to us to kill our citizens."

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Gerashchenko said the exchange should include Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer who in 2014 was captured by pro-Russian rebels and imprisoned in Russia under charges she killed two Russian journalists.

Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the volunteer Aydar battalion captured the two soldiers in the town of Shchastya in the country's Luhansk region, according to the BBC. Aleksandrov reportedly said he was part of a 14-member unit.

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Moscow has yet to publicly comment on the reported capture.

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On Tuesday, colleagues of slain Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov released a report alleging at least 220 Russian soldiers have died fighting in Ukraine.

Last October, a Ukrainian non-governmental organization reported the deployment of Russian paratroopers to Ukraine's Luhansk region.

Putin has previously said any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine are volunteers doing so of their own will.

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Two days after the release of the Nemtsov report, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said a tenuous cease-fire between Kiev and pro-Russian rebels that was negotiated in Minsk, Belarus, in February could not survive unless Russia withdrew its up to 11,000 troops allegedly stationed in eastern Ukraine.

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