Nov 25, 2022 - World

At least 15,000 missing due to Russian war on Ukraine, official says

A man looks at smoke rising from a Russian strike in the Kherson ship yards on November 24, 2022 in Kherson, Ukraine.

Smoke rising from a Russian strike in the ship yards of Kherson, Ukraine, on Thursday. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

More than 15,000 people have gone missing in Ukraine since Russian forces launched their invasion, an official in the Kyiv office of the Hague-based International Commission on Missing Persons said Thursday.

The big picture: Matthew Holliday, the ICMP's program director for Europe, told Reuters the numbers were conservative and it wasn't clear how many of those missing had been "forcibly transferred," detained in Russia, separated from their families or had "died and been buried in makeshift graves."

What they're saying: "The numbers are huge and the challenges that Ukraine faces are vast. Besides which they're fighting an ongoing war as well against the Russian Federation," Holliday said to Reuters.

  • "The vast majority of missing persons, those deceased, are victims of war crimes, and the perpetrators need to be held responsible."

What we're watching: The ICMP in Kyiv is increasing the capacity of its collection of data and DNA samples in an attempt to secure matches with family members.

  • The group's director-general Kathryne Bomberger said in May it "will make it possible to reunite families and will facilitate the prosecution of those accused of war crimes and other human rights violations."
  • It builds on the process ICMP officials used to account for over 27,000 of the 40,000 reported missing persons during the Balkan wars and is expected take years.

Go deeper: What counts as a war crime and why they're so hard to prosecute

Go deeper