The body of Joshua Jones, American killed in Ukraine, returned to Ukrainian custody

Zaporizhia region, Ukraine

The body of an American killed in August while fighting alongside the Ukrainian army has been returned to Ukraine by the Russian army.

A CNN team witnessed the transfer in the Zaporizhzhia region on Wednesday.

The American is Joshua Jones, 24, who was killed in August. The US State Department has notified Jones’ family of the body’s return, Jones’ father, Jeff Jones, told CNN on Wednesday.

The transfer took place just north of Vasylivka in the Zaporizhzhia region between Ukrainian and Russian-controlled Ukraine. The two sides had agreed to a two-hour ceasefire in no-man’s-land between Russian- and Ukrainian-controlled Ukraine.

A Ukrainian ambulance was on hand to transport Jones’ body. The Ukrainians said they were able to identify the body from Jones’ tattoos and other identifying features. The Russians had also sent pictures of the body in advance.

In a tearful phone call, Jeff Jones told CNN, « We got it back! »

« I can’t tell you what burden is taken from this family, » Jones. « I couldn’t give up that hope. »

Jones said he received a message from the International Legion Wednesday morning at 6:30 a.m. via the Signal app. He said he missed it. At 7 a.m., he received a call from his son’s fiancée with the news.

A little later, the US Embassy in Kyiv called him and checked the return.

Jones’ remains were found in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), a self-declared Russian-backed republic that has ruled a breakaway part of Ukraine’s Donetsk region since 2014.

DPR officials said in August that Jones’ body had been transferred to an area morgue and they were prepared to discuss a transfer of his remains.

Jones became one of many Americans who have been captured or killed in Ukraine since the outbreak of war in February.

Stephen Zabierslki was killed in May and Marine Corps veteran Willy Cancel was killed in April. In July, the State Department said two US citizens had been killed in Donbass.

Two American veterans, Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh and Alexander John-Robert Drueke, were captured in June while fighting for Ukraine in a battle near Kharkiv. The couple were released last month as part of a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine that was brokered by Saudi Arabia.

And CNN previously reported that a third US Navy veteran, Grady Kurpasi, was missing in action in June.

Russia is the only country that considers the DPR to be independent. The international community does not recognize the region and its institutions and considers the territory to be part of Ukraine. Independent watchdog groups have long accused the separatists of a dismal human rights record and prisoner mistreatment.

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