‘Corpse lords’ sniff out Russian bodies to swap for Ukraine’s dead

Ukrainian 'corpse lords' are searching for the bodies of dead Russian soldiers as they have to return them home under international law.

The grim task is being undertaken as part of an exchange of the deceased across enemy lines, reports in The Times say.

Some of the bodies being retrieved under the operation have been on the ground for several months, leaving them difficult to identify as they have begun to decompose.

Two men speaking from a location near the village of Vilkhivka, near Kharkiv, told the newspaper that they responded to tip-offs from the public before loading the dead Russian soldiers into the back of their vehicle.

Describing their job with dark humour as "corpse lords", they claimed they were often driving 120 miles every day to later provide them to the Ukrainian army for processing.

Under international agreements it is required that opposing sides in any conflict agree to return bodies of deceased soldiers to their families upon request.

To ensure they are not hurt or killed themselves by unexploded ordinance, the men said they attach ropes to the feet of each body before dragging it along the ground.

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Reflecting on the method, they told The Times: “If the body is mined… it means we keep our life. We try to do it with as much dignity as possible.”

Exchange of deceased soldiers between Russia and Ukraine began on June 4, just over three months after fighting began.

Another swap last weekend saw 50 bodies transferred between the two armies, with many on the Ukrainian side being people who died while trying to hold off Russian forces at the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol.

Former commander of Ukraine's Azov National Guard regiment Maksym Zhorin said on Sunday (June 12) that this brought the total of Ukrainian bodies returned from the site up to 220 — but warned that "just as many bodies still remain in Mariupol".

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