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Ukraine, over 15 thousand people disappeared during the war

Ukraine, over 15 thousand people disappeared during the war

Over 15,000 people have disappeared during the war in Ukraine, an official at the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) said on Thursday.

The Hague-based organization, created after the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s, opened an office in Kiev in July to help Ukraine document and search for missing persons.

Matthew Holliday, director for Europe at ICMP, says it is unclear how many people may have been forcibly transferred, how many are being detained by Russia, how many are alive and separated from their families, or how many have died and are buried in fabricated graves.

The process of investigating the missing in Ukraine will take years, even after the fighting has stopped, Mr. Holliday told the Reuters news agency. The figure of 15,000 missing people is a cautious estimate considering that in the port city of Mariupol alone, the authorities estimate that around 25,000 people have been killed or disappeared.

"The numbers are very high, and the challenges facing Ukraine are very big, in addition to the war they are having with the Russian Federation," said Mr. Holliday.

He spoke after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for the United Nations to punish Russia for airstrikes on civilian infrastructure after a wave of rocket attacks plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness amid freezing weather.

By storing DNA samples in a database and verifying matches with relatives, ICMP managed to identify more than 27,000 of the 40,000 people reported missing during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

In Kiev, the ICMP has begun collecting DNA samples and is ramping up capacity for a multi-year process that will also help prosecutors investigate war crimes.

"It is now essential that we take all the appropriate measures to ensure that many people can be identified," Mr Holliday said.

"The vast majority of missing persons, the dead, are victims of war crimes, and the perpetrators must be held accountable," he added./VOA

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