Ukraine: Searching for missing people in Donbass

For the past two years, Ukraine has been divided. Despite several truces, clashes continue in the eastern regions between pro-Russian separatists and government forces. According to the UN, more than 9,000 people have been killed, including many civilians, while many others have disappeared. Kidnappings have been both politically and financially motivated. Many families are plunged into despair over the fate of missing loved ones. Our reporter went to meet those affected.


The war in Ukraine is no longer making headlines, and yet it has never stopped. In some parts of the Donbass, in the east of the country, there are daily exchanges of artillery fire. Peace talks between the Ukrainian authorities and the separatists are only making slow progress. Meanwhile, another battle is playing out on both sides: that of rescuing prisoners and hostages, and finding those who are missing, dead or alive.

According to figures provided by the SBU, the Ukrainian Security Service, 3,015 people who had been captured have been released since the conflict began in April 2014. But 123 others are apparently still being held by the separatists and 693 people are reported missing. These figures concern both civilians and military personnel. As for the separatist authorities, they say 458 of their fighters have been captured by the Ukrainian side, which is also holding 563 political prisoners and 199 civilians. These numbers are constantly changing, especially as some families do not report the disappearance of their relatives.

What happens to these missing people? How do families overcome the agonising wait? How do former hostages manage to return to normal life? And how is the Ukrainian government dealing with this situation? Our reporter went to Ukraine to answer these questions. In a previous report, she had met Elena, a mother whose son disappeared in the summer of 2014, in Donetsk. Unfortunately she was not allowed to return to the separatist-held areas. She therefore conducted her investigation from Ukrainian soil.

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