Putin spokesman says Russia aims to free 2 held in Ukraine, won't comment if they're soldiers

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman says Moscow is making efforts toward the release of two Russians held in Ukraine, but has declined comment on claims that they are soldiers.

In video published Friday by the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the two men repeated assertions that they were on active duty with the Russian military in rebellious eastern Ukraine when they were captured Saturday.

Russia consistently denies Ukrainian and Western allegations that it is supporting eastern Ukraine's separatists with troops and equipment. The Defense Ministry said this week that the two men had been soldiers but were no longer serving.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia "is taking all necessary measures to get them out of captivity" but that whether they were soldiers "is not a subject for the presidential administration."

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