As the fighting seems to be ending in east Ukraine and the frontlines fall silent, the grim job of tracing all those killed or missing in the fighting is only just beginning.

Thousands on both sides have been killed in battles such as at Donetsk airport, Debaltseve, and Ilovaisk. But the numbers of corpses retrieved and returned to their bereaved relatives is much smaller.

In the chaos of the conflict, neither side has definitive figures for the numbers "missing in action".

Some soldiers may have just deserted, but many of those killed were simply left where they fell.

At Donetsk airport, nearly four months of bitter fighting has left the whole complex completely shattered.

Separatist commanders have press-ganged captured Ukrainian soldiers into excavating the bodies of their dead colleagues.

But there are growing calls for a more humane and effective way of resolving the fate of those who went to fight and never came back.

The chaotic nature of the fighting in east Ukraine has meant that the bodies of those killed in action have often just been left where they fell [Al Jazeera/Paul Brennan]
Captured soldiers search through the rubble for the bodies of their dead comrades [Paul Brennan/Al Jazeera]

Source: Al Jazeera