The Russian military has returned the body of an American killed in August 2022 while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces to Ukrainian authorities. Our group was present on Wednesday when the transfer took place in Zaporizhzhya.
The deceased American has been identified as 24-year-old Joshua Jones. Jones’s father, Jeff Jones, told USA Today on Wednesday that the State Department had informed the family about the recovery of the remains.
The transfer took place to the north of Vasylivna in Zaporizhzhya, where control of the region alternates between Ukraine and Russia. Both sides agreed to a two-hour truce between Russian- and Ukrainian-controlled Ukraine in the buffer zone.
Jones’s body was taken away in a Ukrainian ambulance. According to the Ukrainians, Jones’ tattoos and other identifying features allowed them to identify the body positively. The Russians also foreshadowed the arrival of the body by sending photographs.
On Wednesday, Ukraine released a Russian soldier as part of a prisoner swap that had previously resulted in the release of ten Ukrainians.
Over the phone, Jeff Jones sobbed to USA Today, “We got him back!”
What a weight has been taken off this family’s shoulders,” Jones said. “I just couldn’t give up that hope.”
According to Jones, the International Legion contacted him on the Signal messaging app at 6:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. He claimed he had been longing for it to return. His son’s fiancee called him at 7 a.m. to break the news.
A short time later, he received a call from the US Embassy in Kyiv confirming his safe return.
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price released a statement Wednesday expressing sympathy for Jones’ family and gratitude to Ukraine for considering the recovery of Jones’ remains in its negotiations with Russia.
He also said the remains would be returned to the family very soon.
All the remains belonging to Jones were discovered in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), a breakaway area of Ukraine’s Donetsk region ruled by a self-proclaimed republic with Russian support since 2014.
According to DPR officials, Jones’ body was moved to a local mortuary in August, and they are now willing to explore the possibility of transferring his remains.
Since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict in February, many Americans, including Jones, have been taken hostage or died.
In May, we lost Stephen Zabierslki, and in April, we lost Willy Cancel, a Marine Corps veteran. State Department officials reported two American deaths in Donbas in July.
American servicemen Alexander John-Robert Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh were taken prisoner in June while fighting for Ukraine in Kharkiv. Last month, the Saudi Arabian government facilitated the release of the two as part of a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine.
CNN also reported in June that US Marine soldier Grady Kurpasi had vanished.
Only Russia recognizes the DPR as an independent nation. As part of Ukraine, the international community does not recognize the region or its institutions. The separatists have been accused by human rights organizations and watchdog groups for years of having a poor human rights record and mistreating prisoners.