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Putin asks separatists to release Ukrainian soldiers

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement Friday asking pro-Russian separatists to release Ukrainian soldiers they had surrounded.

The statement, published on the Kremlin's website, came after Ukraine said Russia had invaded it with tanks. NATO has stated that at least 1,000 Russian troops are in Ukraine.

"I'm calling on insurgents to open a humanitarian corridor for Ukrainian troops who were surrounded in order to avoid senseless deaths," Putin said in the statement, asking the separatists to release soldiers who were surrounded by rebels in eastern Ukraine. Putin also praised the pro-Russian separatists for "undermining Kiev's military operation, which threatened lives of the residents of Donbass and has already led to a colossal death toll among civilians."

The separatists responded by saying that they would open a "humanitarian corridor" to allow Ukrainian troops to withdraw, at Putin's request.

Absent from Putin's statement, however, was any mention of the claims about Russia's tanks and troops in Ukraine.