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Russia holds thousands of Ukrainians hostage: Efforts for their return underway

Russia holds thousands of Ukrainians hostage: Efforts for their return underway Defense Intelligence of Ukraine representative Andrii Yusov (Vitalii Nosach, RBC-Ukraine)
Author: Liliana Oleniak

Russia is holding thousands of Ukrainian civilians in captivity both on its territory and on temporarily occupied territories. Ukraine is working on the return of its citizens and expects results, according to Andrii Yusov, a representative of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine.

According to him, Ukraine is trying to return its citizens held hostage by the aggressor country, and exchanges are not the only tool.

"In the case of civilians, even more so. Because if we are talking about the very fact of talking about the exchange of civilians, this is some kind of pirate and terrorist practice from the Middle Ages. This would mean that Ukraine would have to raid the Bryansk region, capture several civilian areas there, and then make mass exchanges there," Yusov says during the presentation of the new project "I Want to Find".

The representative of the DIU emphasizes that, unlike terrorist Russia, Ukraine is not going to take Russian civilians hostage.

"So, yes, all information is collected under the guise of law enforcement, so-called counterterrorism measures, filtration measures. In reality, there are massive repressions of the local population in the occupied territories," Yusov says.

He clarified that it is not only the period of the full-scale invasion but since 2014.

"This includes Crimea and Donbas, and many people are in Russian captivity. And work is underway on all of them and results are expected. The problem is that such actions continue," Yusov says.

According to him, the Russian repressive apparatus in the occupied territories of our country is currently working in real time under various pretexts, often aimed at either "reporting" or corruption, or the desire to seize someone else's property, car, real estate, or land, in the case of farmers.

"People do find themselves in captivity. Sometimes without any legal status. And these are all war crimes, information on them is collected, recorded, and, of course, taken into account," Yusov summarizes.

Thousands of Ukrainian civilians in Russian captivity: where aggressor is holding them

The BBC recently published a story emphasizing that thousands of Ukrainians are being held in colonies and detention centers in Russia and the occupied territories, imprisoned without charges, investigations, trials, or release dates, and it is virtually impossible to find them.

The agency has compiled a list of pre-trial detention centers and penal colonies where Ukrainian citizens are held in Russia and the occupied territories. It includes 34 institutions in 17 regions of the Russian Federation and two pre-trial detention centers in occupied Simferopol.

Ukrainians are also held in prisons of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic and the temporarily occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.

Earlier, the Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine estimated that as of November 2023, 4337 Ukrainians were held in Russian captivity. Of these, 3574 are military personnel and 763 are civilians.

In turn, the Ombudsman of Ukraine Dmytro Lubinets said that more than 140 civilian Ukrainians had returned home as part of all prisoner exchanges. According to him, there may be 25,000 people missing in the occupied territories.