In the weeks following Russia’s retreat from the northern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, volunteers are helping the Ukrainian military collect the bodies of deceased Russian Soldiers. Their hope is to trade the bodies back to Russia in exchange for Ukrainian prisoners.
Ukrainians are keeping the bodies they recover from blast craters, rubble, and vehicles in refrigerated train cars. They then use whatever they can to identify the bodies.
According to the captain of the military-civil cooperation branch, Ukrainian Armed Forces, Anton Ivannikov, the bodies of slain Russian troops are often used as currency to buy back prisoners or Ukrainian casualties.
Ukraine is gathering the bodies of dead Russian soldiers strewn among the rubble of formerly occupied towns and trying to verify their identities in the hope of exchanging them for prisoners of war https://t.co/3HJl45UgnE pic.twitter.com/tch6NVeSOa
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 25, 2022
“We are gathering all the documents, all the credit cards. Anything which would help us identify the body,” said Ivannikov. “In the future this will tell us which Soldier, which brigade was in this region, for further exchange.” Ivannikov also said that tattoos, are often as valuable as formal identification and that bodies of high ranking officers tend to be particularly valuable bargaining chips.
The Ukrainian military and resistance fighters made this recovery mission possible by repelling Russian forces far enough out of the region that they could no longer be touched by indirect fire such as mortars or artillery.
According to Ivannikov, the recovered bodies are to be transported via to Kyiv on the cold storage train. There, they will be inventoried and leveraged by the exchange negotiation team. Currently, Russia is not responding to questions pertaining to the circumstances under which some of the recovered Russian Soldiers were killed.
In the midst of the Ukrainian military’s recovery efforts in and around Kharkiv, troops in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, approximately 150 miles to the south east continue to defend the country from furrociaous Russian attacks.
Moscow continues to refer to its war as a “special operation” so as to appear to appear less hostile to the rest of the world as it wages war against Ukraine.