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US reservists leave Ukraine after weeks of protests

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US reservists leave Ukraine after weeks of protests

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To the sound of cheers and jeers a contingent of some 200 US reservists have left southern Ukraine in what is being seen as a victory for anti-NATO demonstrators.

There have been weeks of protests on the Crimean peninsula over plans for a series of joint NATO-Ukraine military excercises. They were due to start in the coming weeks with the aim of strengtheningties between Ukraine’s pro-Western government and the alliance. And there lies the problem. The Crimean peninsula – an automonous region within Ukraine – not only has strong sympathies with Moscow, it is also largely populated by ethnic Russians. President Viktor Yushchenko’s plans to join NATO have inflamed passions in the Crimea which is opposed to the ex-Soviet republic joining the alliance. But the soldiers’ departure does not mean the manoeuvres will not take place. It is now up to the nation’s parliament to look into the problem and decide if Ukraine will host the highly contentious Sea Breeze 2006 exercises.