Ukraine began the final withdrawal of its troops from Iraq on Tuesday, the Defense Ministry said. Ukraine's remaining 876 troops that served under Polish command as a part of the U.S.-led forces in southern and central Iraq, are all due home by Dec. 30, ministry spokesman Viktor Vasyuk said.
The first batch of 120 troops was scheduled to arrive at a military base in western Ukraine later on Tuesday, he said.
The government began withdrawing the troops in March, and President Viktor Yushchenko had pledged they would be out by the year's end. The Western-leaning Ukrainian leader, who was elected in December last year, made a pullout from Iraq one of his campaign promises. Eighteen Ukrainian soldiers died and 32 others were wounded in Iraq.
Ukraine initially strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq but later agreed to send 1,650 troops with the U.S.-led coalition, making the former Soviet republic among the largest contributors.
The move was mainly seen as an effort by then-President Leonid Kuchma to repair relations with Washington, frayed by alleged sales of Ukrainian radar systems to Saddam Hussein's regime in violation of U.N. sanctions. The United States is picking up the US$3 million (Ђ2.5 million) cost of the withdrawal, reports the AP. I.L.