KEY POINTS

  • Ukrainian police have registered more than 15,000 missing persons amid the Russian invasion
  • Police said 50% of the people have been found, with some bodies showing "signs of violent death"
  • The largest Telegram channel dedicated to finding missing Ukrainians receives up to 150 inquiries a day

Ukrainian police have opened 15,000 missing person cases amid Russia's invasion.

Around 50% of those people have been found, U.S. government-funded organization Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported, citing authorities.

"Unfortunately, some of them are identified bodies with signs of violent death," Roman Kyrylevych, of the Ukrainian police, told the outlet in an interview.

Liudmyla Denisova, Ukraine's parliament commissioner for human rights, confirmed in April that more than 15,000 Ukrainians have gone missing since Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24.

Volodymyr Borysovskiy, who disappeared while delivering aid to the now-Russian-occupied city of Mariupol, was one such case. He last spoke to his sister, Lilia, back in March, she said.

"Five, seven, 10 days passed. He was gone. I realized that something had happened," Lilia told RFE/RL.

Borysovskiy's body would later be found in a prison in Olenivka, a town currently occupied by Russian forces.

Lilia, like many Ukrainians, turned to social media to look for her missing relative.

Among the channels on the messaging service Telegram that are dedicated to finding missing persons, the one set up by Ukrainian journalist and television presenter Kateryna Osadcha is reportedly the largest.

The channel receives between 100 to 150 inquiries a day, but it saw up to 1,000 inquiries when Russian forces occupied parts of the Kyiv region as well as Mariupol, Osadcha said.

Volunteers sort through lists of people who have been evacuated, displaced or taken to hospitals as a result of the war upon receiving an inquiry, the journalist explained.

They also go through lists of people who have been taken to Russia or the two internationally unrecognized pro-Russian separatist states in eastern Ukraine: the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic.

"There is a large ongoing search through these lists," Osadcha said.

Russian forces in occupied parts of Ukraine allegedly abducted and detained Ukrainian journalists, public officials, civil rights activists and civilians who are vocal against the invasion in an attempt to intimidate local communities.

Russia has also been repeatedly accused of deliberately targeting civilians and indiscriminately attacking densely populated areas.

Under Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), "intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities" is considered a war crime.

Russia, for its part, has denied claims that its forces committed war crimes in its invasion. However, Ukrainian prosecutors said they have identified 15,000 suspected war crimes in the ongoing conflict.

Russia is accused of taking tens of thousands of Ukrainians onto territory it controls and of other war crimes
Russia is accused of taking tens of thousands of Ukrainians onto territory it controls and of other war crimes AFP / Yasuyoshi CHIBA
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