More than 400 Ukrainian soldiers have crossed over into Russian territory.
Russian news agency Interfax reports that the troops deserted the Kyiv government.
Ukraine said the soldiers were forced into Russian territory by rebel fire and had asked for a ‘humanitarian corridor’ to pass through.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian military said troops came under sustained attack from rebels for several hours. Ukrainian troops then ran out of ammunition and were forced to abandon their position, ending up near the border.
One Ukranian soldier described how they had been well treated by the Russians: “Today there was another attack, there were direct threats. We simply had no choice. We had to retreat. But we were received here well, given food, water.”
A Russian official said 180 of the troops had since been returned to Ukraine after consultations with Kiev while the rest were deciding what to do next.