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What you need to know about US citizens captured in Ukraine

While other fighters said they were captured in clashes with Russian forces on June 9, Washington and Moscow offered little on behalf of the whereabouts of the two US military veterans.

It has been a fortnight since anyone last heard from Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, both US Army veterans and residents of Alabama, after they went missing in Ukraine, who allegedly fought against Russian forces in the Kharkiv region.

While other fighters said they were captured in clashes with Russian forces on June 9, Washington and Moscow did little to find out where the two veterans were.

According to a Reuters report, although the Kremlin denied knowing the location of the duo, it did not rule out that they could face the death penalty.

Here’s what we know so far:

What happened to Drueke and Huynh?

The people of Alabama had voluntarily joined the Ukrainian forces after the Russian invasion on February 24.

the telegraph, who first reported their disappearances, quoted an unnamed comrade who said the pair were captured after encountering a larger Russian force in a June 9 battle northeast of Kharkiv.

Drueke’s mother, Lois Drueke, said her son told his family that he was teaching Ukrainian troops how to use US-made weapons.

“Alex was very convinced that he had been trained in a way to help Ukrainians be strong and push Putin back,” she said. The Washington Post, reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The two are the first Americans reportedly captured or injured in Ukraine, which Putin invaded in February.

Both Drueke and Huynh had served in the US military, with Drueke serving two tours in Iraq, the last as a gunnery chief in Baghdad from 2008 to 2009, according to his mother.

Huynh was a US Marine who left the service in 2018, his fiancee, Joy Black, said, according to an Al Jazeera report. He had studied robotics at Calhoun Community College before leaving for Ukraine in April.

On June 17, Russian state television aired a video of the two US military veterans, confirming the men had been taken prisoner and raising fears about their fate.

Drueke, speaking into the camera from what appeared to be an office, texted her mother, ending with a quick wink.

“Mom, I just want to let you know that I’m alive and hope to be home as soon as possible. So love Diesel for me. I love you.” Diesel is his dog, a mastiff.

RT, which broadcasts in English, said they were being held by Russian-backed separatist forces in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

Also Read: Ukrainian Journalist and ‘Coldly Executed’ Soldier, Says Press Freedom Group

Where is Russia?

In a recent interview with BNC News, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the two men were captured while fighting in Ukraine.

“They are soldiers of fortune and they were involved in illegal activities on Ukrainian territory. They were involved in shooting and shelling our military. They were putting their lives in danger,” Peskov told the outlet, in English.

“They should be held accountable for the crimes they committed,” he added in the first excerpts of the interview made public.

“These crimes must be investigated.”

The circumstances in which the two men were being held were not entirely clear, or who specifically held them. Peskov said only that they were detained by the “authorities”.

As to whether they could face the death penalty, Peskov said: “It depends on the investigation.”

Even if Russia does not apply the death penalty, the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, whose independence is recognized only by Moscow, have included it in their statutes.

Also Read: ‘The Impossible’: Ukraine’s Secret and Deadly Rescue Missions

What is the United States saying?

US officials have not confirmed details of the men’s capture, although they said they are investigating the situation.

According to AlJazeera report, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday that Washington had been in “direct contact” with Russian authorities and “did not receive from Russian authorities or Russian proxy forces or any other entity additional details of the whereabouts of these Americans”.

“We are pursuing every channel, every opportunity we have to learn more and support their families, especially at this difficult hour,” he said.

US Representative Adam Kinzinger said last week that Drueke and Huynh had enlisted in the International Legion, a unit created by the Ukrainian military for foreign volunteers following the Russian invasion, which offered them “protective legal rights of combatants”.

“As such, we expect Legion members to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention,” Kinzinger said on Twitter.

The United States has insisted that anyone captured be treated as a prisoner of war and protected by guarantees of humane treatment and fair trial. But the Russian military has said it views foreigners fighting with Ukraine as mercenaries and says they are not protected as combatants under the Geneva Conventions.

Earlier this month, a court in Donetsk sentenced two British nationals and a Moroccan to death, accusing them of being mercenaries.

With contributions from agencies

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