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Russia says Ukrainian troops loyal to Kiev have all left Crimea

Source: Reuters - Fri, 28 Mar 2014 11:54 GMT
Author: Reuters
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MOSCOW, March 28 (Reuters) - Russia's defence minister told President Vladimir Putin on Friday that all Ukrainian servicemen loyal to Kiev had left Crimea and the Russian flag was flying over all military sites on the Black Sea peninsula.

Warships, war planes and other military hardware seized by Moscow will be returned to the Ukrainian army, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin at meeting with senior Russian military officers.

"The recent events in Crimea were a serious test," Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.

"They demonstrated both the completely new capabilities of our Armed Forces and the high morale of the personnel."

He praised Russian troops for "avoiding bloodshed" in Crimea.

Russian forces took control of Crimea ahead of a referendum there this month in which residents voted overwhelmingly in favour of the region becoming part of Russia.

"The change in state symbols on all ships and in all divisions that have sided with the Russian army has been completed," Shoigu told Putin.

Russia's potential return to Ukraine's military vessels and airplanes could remove a costly legal battle over the hardware in international arbitration courts. (Reporting by Alissa be Carbonnel and Vladimir Soldatkin, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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