Ukraine does not know about the majority of citizens who are in captivity in Russia. Dmytro Lubinets, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, told about this in an interview with Voice of America.
According to the ombudsman, Ukraine knows about thousands of confirmed prisoners of war, but most of the prisoners in Russia are not confirmed.
In order for a person to receive the status of a prisoner of war, his stay in captivity must be confirmed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). However, the organization receives this information from Russia, which, as the Ukrainian side has repeatedly stated, does not confirm information about many people.
In the fall of 2022, the ICRC confirmed this problem. In a press release, the organization stated that it does not have unhindered access to all prisoners of war, despite “persistent” demands.
In accordance with the norms of international humanitarian law, when the Russians take someone prisoner, they must notify representatives of the ICRC, who must interview the prisoners, record their medical condition and report to a special center in Geneva, which in turn informs the relatives in Ukraine and the Coordination Headquarters with issues of treatment of prisoners of war. According to the Commissioner for Human Rights, Russia reports on the detention of people in captivity chaotically.
“There is no logic in the actions of the Russian Federation. When the Russians decide to confirm someone, they simply provide lists. And that’s all. According to my information, they do not provide the possibility of physical access, and the ICRC does not require this access,” said Lubinets.
The ICRC report states that from February 2022 to June 2023, representatives of the Red Cross visited about 1,500 prisoners of war in Russia and Ukraine. However, the organization does not specify how this number is distributed among countries.
The Red Cross writes that obtaining information and access to all prisoners of war and interned civilians remains an important priority for the organization, but notes that the responsibility for providing this access rests with states that have signed the Geneva Conventions.
“Accusing the ICRC that we are not being given full and immediate access will not help the POWs or their families. We share the frustration of those families who are suffering and waiting without any news. We are constantly working with the parties to the conflict to gain access to prisoners of war,” the organization’s website says.
For more information about the exchange of prisoners of war and what the investigators managed to find out in the case of the downing of the Russian Il-76 plane, see the Voice of America interview with Dmytro Lubinets.