The war between Russia and Ukraine continues to leave a tragic legacy. An alarming number of 23,000 individuals still reported missing

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is actively engaged in the pursuit of information regarding the fate of 23,000 individuals whose families remain in the dark—whether due to capture, casualties, or loss of contact following displacement. This heartbreaking reality compounds the immeasurable suffering and humanitarian needs arising from the two-year escalation of armed conflict, affecting millions displaced both within and beyond the borders of the involved countries.

Dusan Vujasanin, Head of the ICRC’s Central Tracing Agency Bureau (CTA-B) for the international armed conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, emphasized the anguish experienced by families deprived of news about their loved ones. “The absence of information is agonizing, leaving tens of thousands of families in perpetual anguish. Families deserve the right to ascertain the fate of their relatives and, wherever possible, to maintain communication,” expressed Vujasanin., icrcnewsroom reports.

Through collaborative efforts with Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies in Ukraine, Russia, and elsewhere, by January 2024, the ICRC had assisted 8,000 families in obtaining information on the status or whereabouts of their missing relatives. Over the past two years, the ICRC has fielded over 115,000 inquiries via phone calls, online requests, letters, or personal visits from families across Russia and Ukraine seeking their missing kin.


“While we have facilitated numerous reunions and provided clarity to countless families, many continue to suffer in silence. Our commitment remains unwavering in our pursuit to assist more families,” affirmed Mr. Vujasanin.

Established in March 2022, the CTA-B collaborates with conflict parties to mitigate disappearances and aid families in locating their loved ones on both sides of the frontline. In accordance with the Geneva Conventions, both Russian and Ukrainian authorities have established National Information Bureaus (NIBs) responsible for collating, centralizing, and disseminating information regarding protected persons, such as prisoners of war or civilian internees, under their custody.

Serving as a neutral intermediary between Russia and Ukraine, the CTA-B collects, consolidates, safeguards, and transmits information between both parties. This coordination significantly diminishes the likelihood of disappearances, as mandated by the Geneva Conventions.

“Matching tracing requests from families with information provided by the NIBs signifies an end to months of uncertainty regarding the fate of a loved one,” noted Mr. Vujasanin.

The ICRC collaborates closely with Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners in approximately 50 countries to deliver answers to families, alongside extending support and assistance to numerous family associations established by relatives of the missing or prisoners of war. Additionally, it aids conflict parties in fulfilling their legal obligations regarding the recovery, identification, transfer, and repatriation of human remains—serving as a neutral intermediary as required.

International humanitarian law unequivocally asserts the right of families to ascertain the fate and whereabouts of their missing relatives. Each party to an international armed conflict is obligated to prevent disappearances and ensure humane treatment and dignified handling of those held and deceased.

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