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President Yushchenko (file photo) (epa)
20 December 2005 -- Ukraine began the final withdrawal of its troops from Iraq today.
A Defense Ministry spokesman in Kyiv said Ukraine's remaining 876 soldiers that served under Polish command as a part of the U.S.-led forces in southern and central Iraq are all due home by 30 December. The first batch of 120 troops was scheduled to arrive at a military base in western Ukraine later today.
The government began withdrawing the troops in March, and President Viktor Yushchenko had pledged they would be out of Iraq by year's end. Ukraine had sent 1,650 soldiers with the U.S.-led coalition, making it one of the largest contributors to the force.
Eighteen Ukrainian soldiers died and 32 others were wounded in Iraq.
The Melnychenko tapes, some of which were transcribed and published on the Internet, have never been officially recognized as genuine in Ukraine. On the contrary, the former government of President Leonid Kuchma has made many attempts to put their authenticity in doubt and suggest that they were doctored to compromise Kuchma and other top-ranking Ukrainian officials. Which is no surprise -- the Melnychenko tapes suggest that Kuchma might at least have inspired former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko to abduct Georgian-born Heorhiy Gongadze, founder and editor in chief of the "Ukrayinska pravda" muckraking and investigative website in Ukraine, and "drive him out to Georgia" or hand him over to "the Chechens." Here we present translated excerpts from the tapes dealing with the Gongadze case....(more)