The body of an American citizen who fought as a volunteer against Russian forces invading Ukraine is being held as evidence pending a war crimes investigation, his family has confirmed.
The man, 24-year-old Joshua Jones, was killed in action on Aug. 26 while fighting for the Ukrainian Foreign Legion, with his body initially being held by Russian troops in the Donbas region, before being handed over to Ukrainian officials following tense negotiations.
Jones’ body is yet to be returned to his family, with his mother, Misty Gossett, 48, telling NBC News on Wednesday, Nov. 2, that it was being held in Ukraine pending a potential investigation into Russian war crimes.
“Every day this gets prolonged, and we’re just trying to put him to rest,” she said. “We don’t know anything as far as how much longer it’s going to be, when he’s coming home. The communication is exhausting.”
Gossett confirmed that Ukrainian officials had contacted her to inform her a second autopsy would be conducted, and requesting family members to send DNA samples for testing.
Reporters from CNN witnessed the transfer of Joshua’s body in Zaporizhzhia Region on Oct. 26, after Russia and Ukraine agreed to a two-hour ceasefire.
Reacting to the handover, Joshua’s father, Jeff Jones, told CNN, “We got him back! I cannot tell you what a burden is lifted off this family. I couldn’t give up hope.”
Relief for the family, however, has now turned to further anguish while the important investigations into Russia’s widespread war crimes are decided upon.
“Your mind during grief plays tricks on you,” Josh’s mother told CNN. “It’s just emotions that bounce back so cruelly.”
He was a “rebellious yet loving child,” she said, calling the process to have her son’s body returned to the United States “unorganized and exhausting.”
“If your child goes or your spouse goes there and you lose them, what you have to go through is something no one should have to do – on top of losing someone they love.”
Russia continues to deny allegations of war crimes in Ukraine, despite a wealth of shocking and damning evidence.
Reacting to Josh’s death, Ned Price, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said in a statement that “The United States expresses our condolences to the family of the U.S. citizen killed in the fighting in Ukraine, whose remains have now been identified and released to Ukraine’s custody.
“They will soon be returned to the family. The United States is appreciative of Ukraine for including recovery this individual’s remains in its negotiations with Russia.”