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US Marines Leave Ukraine

About 200 U.S. Marines, whose arrival in Ukraine sparked two weeks of anti-NATO protests, are leaving the Crimean peninsula without doing the construction work they were sent to accomplish.

Daily protests by pro-Russian opposition parties have been held on the peninsula since the May 27 arrival of the U.S. reservists. The Marines were deployed to repair a training base ahead of upcoming NATO exercises.

Authorities say the last of the Marines will depart Ukraine on Monday.

Authorities say military exercises set for July will take place as Ukraine-only maneuvers, if parliament fails to approve the participation of NATO forces.

The pro-Russian Ukraine opposition has been been energized by the poor third-place finish of President Viktor Yushchenko's pro-Western party in March parliamentary elections. Talks on forming a ruling coalition have not been successful.

President Yushchenko has made NATO membership a top priority since taking office in 2004.

However, Russian-speaking Ukranians in the south and east remain skeptical of their Cold War foes, and Moscow has warned that relations with Kiev would be harmed if Ukraine joins NATO.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.