老澳门六合彩

Thousands of Ukrainians live in agony and uncertainty as they search for their missing loved ones

Iryna Reva, 59, waits for her son Vladyslav at her apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 9, 2024. Vladyslav Reva, 25, a Ukrainian soldier with the 72nd Mechanized Brigade went missing during fighting against Russian forces near Vuhlehirsk Power Station in the Donetsk region on July 24, 2022. Iryna's son-in-law, Oleksandr Dygalo, who served in the 95th brigade has also disappeared. He was last seen on March 12, 2023 in Donetsk region. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Iryna Reva, 59, waits for her son Vladyslav at her apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) 鈥 Iryna Reva stares at her phone, replaying the last video her 25-year-old son Vladyslav sent her from the front line before the volunteer soldier disappeared 19 months ago in a battle with Russian forces in Ukraine鈥檚 eastern Donetsk region.

Reva is one of the thousands of Ukrainians desperately seeking news of loved ones who have disappeared in the two years since Russia鈥檚 full-scale invasion began. According to Ukraine鈥檚 National Police, more than 30,000 people have been reported missing in the last 24 months.

鈥淯p to this day, I am searching for my son,鈥 Reva said. 鈥淗e is alive to me. Regardless of the circumstances, there is no evidence that he has perished.鈥

The last time Reva spoke to her son, she begged him not to take part in a battle the next morning. 鈥淒on鈥檛 go, say your arm hurts,鈥 she told him over the phone.

鈥淢om, I鈥檓 sorry. I love you very much,鈥 Vladyslav replied. 鈥淚鈥檓 going into battle. I don鈥檛 know if I鈥檒l be back.

鈥淚鈥檒l be out of touch. Pray,鈥 were his last words to her.

The missing include soldiers like Vladyslav lost on the battlefield, but also civilians and children who have vanished in a variety of circumstances. For many relatives, the agonizing uncertainty and relentless search for answers has already gone on for two years with no end in sight.

Valentyna Yeremenko, 95, sits in her daughter's home while waiting for the return of her husband Mykola in Bucha, Kyiv region, on Feb. 11, 2024. Mykola Yeremenko, 96, a veteran of 老澳门六合彩 War II, went missing during the Russian occupation of Irpin, Kyiv region on March 19, 2022. Valentyna, who celebrated their 70-year wedding anniversary with Mykola just a few years ago, longs for his return. "We haven't heard anything about Mykola, only the tear-off calendar on the wall remains, and March 19 is the last day a leaf was torn off鈥 that's when he vanished," said Valentyna's daughter Liudmila Yeremenko reflecting on his disappearance. This is not the only tragedy in Valentyna's family. During the Russian occupation in March 2022, a sniper killed her granddaughter Tetiana Yeremenko. She was 47 years old. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Valentyna Yeremenko, 95, sits in her daughter鈥檚 home while waiting for the return of her husband Mykola in Bucha, Kyiv region, on Feb. 11, 2024. Mykola Yeremenko, 96, a veteran of 老澳门六合彩 War II, went missing during the Russian occupation of Irpin, Kyiv region on March 19, 2022. Valentyna, who celebrated their 70-year wedding anniversary with Mykola just a few years ago, longs for his return. 鈥淲e haven鈥檛 heard anything about Mykola, only the tear-off calendar on the wall remains, and March 19 is the last day a leaf was torn off鈥 that鈥檚 when he vanished,鈥 said Valentyna鈥檚 daughter Liudmila Yeremenko reflecting on his disappearance. This is not the only tragedy in Valentyna鈥檚 family. During the Russian occupation in March 2022, a sniper killed her granddaughter Tetiana Yeremenko. She was 47 years old. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Inna Usenko left her hometown of Mariupol on a business trip the day before the war began in 2022. She lost contact with her brother, Herman Sikorskyi, on March 1 as Russia laid siege to the eastern city and thousands of civilians were trapped. Several weeks later, a Russian airstrike hit the house where he had lived.

鈥淚 don鈥檛 know what to think, whether he鈥檚 alive or not,鈥 she said. 鈥淚 understand perfectly well that if I were there, he would have come to me, and maybe something would have been different, so I feel guilty all the time.鈥

In an attempt to find her brother, Usenko filed a missing person鈥檚 report with the occupation authorities, the Russian Federation and the Russian Red Cross. From her home, which is now in Spain, she came to Ukraine to file a police report and provide DNA to Ukrainian authorities. Despite the efforts, neither side was able to provide her with any information.

鈥淚 would like, of course, to believe that he is alive,鈥 Usenko said, adding that the uncertainty not only drains her but also affects close friends, relatives and his children.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says since February 2022 its team has been contacted more than 100,000 times by families searching for their loved ones.

Natalia Sheleshei, 39, with her children Yehor, 12, and Anastasia, 5, wait for the return of Serhii at their apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 12, 2024. Serhii Sheleshei, 49, a Ukrainian serviceman went missing with three of his comrades during fighting at the frontline near Zaitseve, Donetsk region, on Oct. 12, 2022. "For a year and five months, I've lived with the uncertainty of whether my husband is alive or not," Natalia, who juggles two jobs, says. "He adored the children. Whenever he could, he would call, saying 'I love you' and 'I worry about you'," Natalia recounts about the time when Serhii was at the frontline. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Natalia Sheleshei, 39, with her children Yehor, 12, and Anastasia, 5, wait for the return of Serhii at their apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Svitlana Klymenko, 53, and her son Viacheslav, 31, wait for her husband at her apartment in Ivankiv, Kyiv region on Feb. 10, 2024. Oleh Klymenko, who worked as an emergency medical responder went missing on March 6, 2022 during the Russian occupation of Ivankiv. He vanished on his way home from work and since then his family have had no news of his whereabouts. "On the tenth day of the occupation, he went home to change clothes, to keep functioning normally, to continue working, but he didn't return to work. This happened in broad daylight," Viacheslav said. The war took the family's father but also a son Mykola, who was killed during the fighting against Russian forces in the besieged city of Mariupol in March 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Svitlana Klymenko, 53, and her son Viacheslav, 31, wait for her husband at her apartment in Ivankiv, Kyiv region. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Hanna Rudak, 27, sits in her rented apartment while waiting for the return of her husband Andrii in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 12, 2024. Andrii Rudak, 28, a Ukrainian serviceman with the 30th Mechanized Brigade disappeared during the fighting against Wagner forces at the frontline in Odradivka, Donetsk region on Oct. 15, 2022. Hanna often dreams of Andrii returning to her alive. "Disappearance without a trace is a huge problem. You look at Russian Telegram channels, there lies a body, unrecognizable, and you scrutinize it by the uniform, by the hands, by the hair, hoping it's not him," Hanna says of her search for Andrii. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Hanna Rudak, 27, sits in her rented apartment while waiting for the return of her husband Andrii in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

鈥淭hat doesn鈥檛 mean a hundred thousand missing people. But this gives you an idea of just the amount of suffering that this creates on both sides,鈥 Achille Despr茅s, a spokesperson at the ICRC in Kyiv, said.

For relatives looking for information, the official search often begins with submitting a DNA sample. Andrii Levytskyi, head of forensics at the National Police鈥檚 main investigation department, said more than 18,000 DNA samples of relatives of servicemen and civilians have been collected and processed.

DNA is a vital part of establishing the status of the missing person, especially if they are military. Even if fellow soldiers said they witnessed a soldier killed in battle, it鈥檚 not enough to confirm the death, said Petro Yatsenko, the head of a press office at the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of POWs.

鈥淯ntil we have the body, until we have DNA analysis, this person will have the status of missing,鈥 he said. He said they have had cases in which soldiers were found wounded in captivity, despite testimony from their comrades that they were killed in battle.

Over the past two years, numerous volunteer projects have arisen to aid in the search for missing people, often serving as a last resort for relatives who receive no official information from authorities.

Mariia Reshetova, who runs the Search for the Missing project under the Kateryna Osadcha Foundation, said they have around 1,000 open cases and have already closed hundreds.

She said that while they receive new applications daily, the influx has dwindled compared to the initial months of the war when the project was launched. However, the geography of missing civilians has not changed. Cases originate from both liberated regions like Kyiv, and those still occupied. Many open cases relate to people missing in Mariupol.

鈥淵ou can鈥檛 stop searching ... because there is always a chance that some information will be found,鈥 Reshetova said.

Tetiana, 60, with her son Klim Khvostenko, 35, await the return of her husband in their rented apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 13, 2024. Oleh Khvostenko, 62, a civilian, went missing after being arrested by Russian military police in Dniprorudne, Zaporizhzhia region on July 2, 2022. Since then, the family has struggled to obtain information about his fate and whereabouts. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Tetiana, 60, with her son Klim Khvostenko, 35, await the return of her husband in their rented apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Tetiana Khvostenko鈥檚 husband Oleh was last seen in the summer of 2022 in the occupied city of Dniprorudne in the Zaporizhzhia region when the Russian military detained him as he went to pick up his car. From that point, he vanished.

Oleh鈥檚 relatives, who remained in the occupied territory and therefore can鈥檛 be named for security concerns, tried to get information about why he was detained. They visited the military commandant鈥檚 office many times learning he鈥檇 been handed over to the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB. From there, the trail went cold.

For the past year and seven months, Tetiana and her son Klim have been living in limbo, devoid of any new information about Oleh鈥檚 fate.

鈥淔or 36 years, I鈥檝e had a man by my side. And now he is gone. It鈥檚 like being without an arm or a leg, I don鈥檛 know. It鈥檚 hard,鈥 Tetiana said.

The Khvostenkos hope that Oleh is alive, perhaps detained like thousands of other civilians from occupied territories held without charge in Russian prisons and areas of seized territories as an investigation by 老澳门六合彩 conducted last year found.

The family contacted the relevant institutions on both sides, international organizations including the Red Cross, and even directly inquired into places of captivity, to see if Oleh was being held there.

鈥淲e鈥檝e actually reached out to a lot of places, and the responses are pretty much the same,鈥 said Oleh鈥檚 son Klim.

鈥淎nd that鈥檚 what makes it all the more difficult because there鈥檚 no result. We鈥檙e not a step closer,鈥 he said.

Larysa, 31, with her 4-year-old daughter, Olha, await the return of her husband Mykola at their apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 14, 2024. Mykola, a Ukrainian serviceman with the 30th Mechanized Brigade went missing during fighting at the frontline in Ozarianivka, Donetsk region on Nov. 2, 2022. Ukrainian forces later reclaimed the positions, finding his armored vest, phone, and military ID card. "My husband was taken captive by Wagner forces, but I don't know anything about his fate or whereabouts," Larysa said, her voice heavy with uncertainty. "On Oct. 22, 2022, we had our last meeting. He came to Kyiv to drive a car to the frontline. That day, he told me that a few days before some guys from his unit were captured. With a sinking heart, I asked him to share his phone's live location, to which he replied that it wouldn't make any sense. 'And where will I look for you then?' I jokingly asked. 'It'll be as it'll be,' he calmly replied, as if already accepted what was to come in a week," Larysa recounted, reflecting on their final encounter. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Larysa, 31, with her 4-year-old daughter, Olha, await the return of her husband Mykola at their apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine. Mykola, a Ukrainian serviceman with the 30th Mechanized Brigade went missing during fighting at the frontline in Ozarianivka, Donetsk region on Nov. 2, 2022. 鈥淢y husband was taken captive by Wagner forces, but I don鈥檛 know anything about his fate or whereabouts,鈥 Larysa said, her voice heavy with uncertainty. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Maria Lezhnova, 52, sits surrounded by her pets as she waits for her son Hryhorii inside her apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 15, 2024. Hryhorii Polevyi, 29, a military medic with the 120th Battalion went missing at the frontline in Mayorsk, Donetsk region, on November 4, 2022. Along with him, ten other servicemen disappeared. The day before he vanished, he sent a message to his mother saying simply: "Love you very much, I will go without connection for some time." (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Maria Lezhnova, 52, sits surrounded by her pets as she waits for her son Hryhorii inside her apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine. Hryhorii Polevyi, 29, a military medic with the 120th Battalion went missing at the frontline in Mayorsk, Donetsk region, on November 4, 2022. The day before he vanished, he sent a message to his mother saying simply: 鈥淟ove you very much, I will go without connection for some time.鈥 (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Olena Diachenko, 38, along with her children Maksym, 13, Margaryta, 10, and Myroslava, 5, await the return of husband and father Oleksandr in Mala Ofirna, Kyiv region, on Feb. 14, 2024. Oleksandr Diachenko, 37, serviceman of the 30th Mechanized Brigade missed during fighting at the frontline in Bohdanivka, Donetsk region, on March 4, 2023. "Children don't wish for presents on their birthdays; they wish for their father to come back," Olena said. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Olena Diachenko, 38, along with her children Maksym, 13, Margaryta, 10, and Myroslava, 5, await the return of husband and father Oleksandr in Mala Ofirna, Kyiv region. 鈥淐hildren don鈥檛 wish for presents on their birthdays; they wish for their father to come back,鈥 Olena said. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Natalia, 35, waits for her missing husband Yuriy at her apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 8, 2024. Yuriy, 39, a Ukrainian serviceman, disappeared during fighting against Russian forces on Aug. 14, 2022 near Bakhmut, Donetsk region. He joined the Ukrainian Armed Forces at the beginning of the full scale invasion, took part in defending the Kyiv region and was later sent to fight in the east. "He loves his family, his son, and truly loves Ukraine," Natalia said, recalling her beloved husband. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Natalia, 35, waits for her missing husband Yuriy at her apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine. Yuriy, 39, a Ukrainian serviceman, disappeared during fighting against Russian forces on Aug. 14, 2022 near Bakhmut, Donetsk region. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Liubov Opanasenko, 72, sits at home waiting for the return of her husband Oleksandr in Svitilna, Kyiv region, Ukraine on Feb. 11, 2024. A local resident Oleksandr, 71, chose to remain behind when his wife and son evacuated. He disappeared on March 9, 2022, during the Russian occupation of Svitilna. He was taken from his home by Russian forces and no one has seen him since. "Hope is all that's left, but it's there. Whenever someone returns from captivity, I immediately look to see if it's him," Liubov said. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Liubov Opanasenko, 72, sits at home waiting for the return of her husband Oleksandr in Svitilna, Kyiv region, Ukraine. A local resident Oleksandr, 71, chose to remain behind when his wife and son evacuated. He disappeared on March 9, 2022, during the Russian occupation of Svitilna. 鈥淗ope is all that鈥檚 left, but it鈥檚 there. Whenever someone returns from captivity, I immediately look to see if it鈥檚 him,鈥 Liubov said. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Daryna Herasymenko, 26, waits for her missing husband Serhii in an apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 13, 2024. Serhii Herasymenko, 29, a Ukrainian serviceman with the 46th Separate Air Assault Brigade disappeared during fighting at the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region on Dec. 10, 2022. "Mentally, I am still in December (2022)," said Daryna, who has been with Serhii for seven years. "All I know is that they went on the assault, and that's it," she added. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Daryna Herasymenko, 26, waits for her missing husband Serhii in an apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine. Serhii Herasymenko, 29, a Ukrainian serviceman with the 46th Separate Air Assault Brigade disappeared during fighting at the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region on Dec. 10, 2022. 鈥淢entally, I am still in December (2022),鈥 said Daryna, who has been with Serhii for seven years. 鈥淎ll I know is that they went on the assault, and that鈥檚 it,鈥 she added. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Nina Kovalyk, 47, sits in her apartment while she waits for the return of her brother Andrii in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 11, 2024. Andrii, 48, a Ukrainian serviceman from the Territorial Defense disappeared during the fighting against Russian forces in Mariupol on March 21, 2022. His wife and two children were forced to evacuate from Mariupol through Russia and Belarus and they currently live as refugees in Poland. "He got surrounded with his battalion, no one made it out鈥 they all disappeared without a trace," Nina says. According to an investigation's findings, Andrii's whereabouts, along with his battalion remain unknown. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Nina Kovalyk, 47, sits in her apartment while she waits for the return of her brother Andrii in Kyiv, Ukraine. Andrii, 48, a Ukrainian serviceman from the Territorial Defense disappeared during the fighting against Russian forces in Mariupol on March 21, 2022. 鈥淗e got surrounded with his battalion, no one made it out鈥 they all disappeared without a trace,鈥 Nina says. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Former wife Olha, 35, father Arthur, 64, mother Sofia, 69, and daughter Eva, 7, await the return of Rostyslav at their apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 14, 2024. Rostyslav, 40, a serviceman with the 30th Mechanized Brigade went missing during fighting at the frontline in Mykolaivka Druha, Donetsk region, Ukraine on Sept. 13, 2022. "After some time, I found his military ID on one of the Russian telegram channels. I still believe that he is alive," said Olha. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Former wife Olha, 35, father Arthur, 64, mother Sofia, 69, and daughter Eva, 7, await the return of Rostyslav at their apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine. Rostyslav, 40, a serviceman with the 30th Mechanized Brigade went missing during fighting at the frontline in Mykolaivka Druha, Donetsk region, Ukraine on Sept. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Nina Tkachenko, 47, sits with her daughter Polina, 7, awaiting the return of her husband Vasyl at their rented apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 15, 2024. Vasyl Yurchuk, 39, a Ukrainian serviceman with the 77th Air Assault Brigade went missing during an evacuation operation of an injured comrade at the frontline in Paraskoviivka, Donetsk region, on Jan. 27, 2023. Before the full-scale invasion he was a former private businessman selling windows. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Nina Tkachenko, 47, sits with her daughter Polina, 7, awaiting the return of her husband Vasyl at their rented apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine. Vasyl Yurchuk, 39, a Ukrainian serviceman with the 77th Air Assault Brigade went missing during an evacuation operation of an injured comrade at the frontline in Paraskoviivka, Donetsk region, on Jan. 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

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Associated Press writers Vasilisa Stepanenko, Evgeniy Maloletka, Alex Babenko and Volodymyr Yurchuk contributed to this report.

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Find more of AP鈥檚 coverage at /hub/russia-ukraine

Arhirova is an Associated Press reporter covering Ukraine. She is based in Kyiv.