The body of American Joshua Jones, who died in Ukraine, was returned to Ukrainian custody


Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine
CNN

The body of an American who died fighting alongside the Ukrainian army in August has been handed over to Ukraine by the Russian army.

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

The American is 24-year-old Joshua Jones, 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 north of Vasylivka, in the Zaporizhzhia region, between Ukraine and Russian-held Ukraine. The two sides agreed to a two-hour ceasefire in no-man’s land between Russian-held and Ukrainian-held Ukraine.

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

In a tearful call Jeff Jones told CNN, “We’re back!”

“I can’t tell you what a burden it takes off this family,” Jones. “I couldn’t give up that hope.”

Jones said he received a message from the International Legion at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday morning through the Signal app. He said he lost it. At seven in the morning he received a call from his son’s fiancee with the news.

A little later the US embassy in Kiev called him and verified his 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 taken to a regional mortuary, and that they were ready to discuss the transfer of his remains.

Jones became one of several Americans captured or killed in Ukraine since the war began 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 American citizens were killed in Donbas.

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 pair were released last month as part of a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine brokered by Saudi Arabia.

And CNN previously reported that a third American, US Marine Grady Kurpasi, went missing in action in June.

Russia is the only country that recognizes the DPR as 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 poor human rights record and poor treatment of prisoners.