Dmytro Lubinets, the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights, predicts Russia may be holding more than 20,000 Ukrainian civilians hostage.

 He made the announcement during a press conference in Kyiv, stating that the figures are based on appeals he received from relatives of people who were detained by the Russian military.

 Lubinets acknowledged that the number could be significantly higher as those in the temporarily occupied territories cannot appeal to him or may be afraid to do so.

 He added that a working group dealing with the issues of civilian hostages was created within the coordination headquarters for the treatment of prisoners of war.

 The group is headed by Alexander Kononenko, a representative of the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights in the security and defense sector. So far, the headquarters has returned 2,279 citizens to their homeland, including 142 civilians.

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 Lubinets also mentioned the launch of the Unified Register of missing persons in Ukraine this week.

 "It will take some time to complete the register as information from various bodies, including intelligence agencies and the National Information Bureau, is gradually transmitted," he said.

 The Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights recalled that he personally handed over a list of 2,000 civilian hostages to Russian ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova in Ankara on Jan. 13, 2023.

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 The list was compiled only relating to those who were aged over 65 or suffering from significant illnesses. Lubinets stated that the he had received assurances from the Russian Federation that they were working on a more complete list, but that no progress has since been made.

 Since the start of the Russian war, 23,760 people have been considered to be missing in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government continues to work towards releasing all prisoners of war and hostages.

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