A first batch of 137 Ukrainian troops arrived from Iraq Tuesday, marking the start of a phased pullout that is to be complete by year-end, the Defense Ministry said.
Two cargo aircraft that carried elements of a mechanized company which was based near Iraq's city of Suwayrah, landed in the air base of Mykolaiv, 520 kilometers (320 miles) south of Kiev, a statement from Ukraine's Defense Ministry said.
Earlier this month, President Viktor Yushchenko and top defense officials ordered a phased pullout of Ukraine's 1,650-strong contingent from the U.S. coalition in Iraq.
Ukraine plans to withdraw 550 soldiers from Iraq by May 15 and the rest by the end of the year, the Defense Ministry said.
Earlier this month Yushchenko said that the pullout would be completed by Oct. 15, but Defense Minister Anatoly Gritsenko later said Ukraine might leave some troops in Iraq two months beyond that deadline.
Ukraine strongly opposed the U.S.-led war but later agreed to send a large contingent to serve under Polish command in central and southern Iraq.
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