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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 11:33 GMT
Ukraine sets dates for Iraq exit
Ukrainian troops in Iraq (October, 2004)
At least 17 Ukrainians have now died serving in Iraq
President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine has outlined a schedule for the withdrawal of 1,650 Ukrainian troops from Iraq, starting later this month.

He said the Ukrainian contingent - the sixth largest in the US-led coalition - would leave in three stages between mid-March and October.

Their deployment in 2003 was seen as an attempt by former President Leonid Kuchma to improve ties with the US.

The troops are under command of Polish forces, which are also due to withdraw.

Mr Yushchenko said 150 Ukrainian soldiers would leave in the first group around 15 March, followed by a group of 590 and the remainder by 15 October.

Losses

He said his government had taken into consideration public opinion in both Iraq and Ukraine and concluded that the "war situation in Iraq has changed", according to French news agency AFP.

Seventeen Ukrainian peacekeepers have been killed in Iraq since their deployment in 2003.

In January eight Ukrainian and one Kazakh servicemen were killed while defusing a bomb.

Poland, which has the third-largest contingent in Iraq after the US and Britain, says it is likely to withdraw from Iraq in 2005, but no specific date has been given.



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