On the International Day of the Disappeared (IDoD), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) invites all the concerned stakeholders from either side of the line of contact to increase efforts to give answers on the whereabouts of all those who went missing in the Donbas.

Kyiv, (ICRC) – It has been more than six years since the beginning of the armed conflict in the Donbas, and for the families of people who are missing, each day is like a lifetime. The families of the missing have been reaching to the ICRC for support in their difficult and enduring state of waiting and hoping for any news on their beloved ones.

The ICRC and the Ukrainian Red Cross have registered about 1500 cases of disappearances in relation to the conflict so far. Over 750 of those registered missing persons are still unaccounted for. Of these, more than 95% of are men, and around half of the overall number of those reported missing are civilians.

The ICRC supported the adoption of an appropriate legal framework by the Ukrainian Rada two years ago, in the form of the Law on the Legal Status of Missing Persons of Ukraine, or shorter, the Law on the Missing (LoM). It was one of the most important steps towards the effective resolution of the plight of missing persons and their families. The LoM, amongst other important legal definitions related to the disappeared and their families, stipulates the establishment of the Commission on Missing Persons. This Commission should comprise of people and institutions mandated to provide the answers and exchange information on the whereabouts and destinies of the missing.

The ICRC encourages all stakeholders to coordinate their efforts to provide answers to the families, who are still waiting for any news on their beloved ones.

“The ICRC would like to see the sides accelerate provision of answers on the fate of the missing and show that their families are not forgotten”, says the ICRC Head of Delegation Florence Gillette, and adds: “this year, the ICRC could not gather families of the missing persons for the traditional commemoration of the IDoD, in line with the restrictions related to the pandemic. Despite that, we remain close to each family and reassure them that we are at their side and that they are not alone in their daily struggles. Today, as every day of the year, the ICRC shall continue to advocate with the authorities and structures to address the needs of the families in a more sustainable way and support them with economic, psychosocial and/or administrative assistance”.

Whether people disappear from the battlefield, or during other conflict-related circumstances, the effects on their families, their communities and society at large remain difficult. The families not only endure emotional turmoil, but also struggle to stay afloat financially and face administrative and legal challenges.

The ICRC has been running programmes aimed at helping families of the missing address their psychological, social and material needs, since 2016. Our teams are organizing social gatherings and home visits as well as providing economic support to the families when needed. In addition, we work with political, legal and forensic authorities and entities to help develop expertise as well as technical capacities that would contribute to ascertaining the fate of the missing persons.

Many families of missing have pointed to the importance, in their lives of faith and prayers to cope with their struggling. Hence, this year, to support them in their strivings not to be forgotten by the society, we have also approached the religious leaders of all major denominations in Ukraine and asked them to give their recognition to the issue of the missing. The initiative was well accepted and today we would like to recognize their support and their call to pray for the missing on August 30, the International Day of Disappeared.

Do you have a relative missing as a result of the conflict in Ukraine? Call our toll-free number: 0800-300-155