Captured US fighters allegedly held by Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk – WISH-TV | Indianapolis News | Indiana Weather forecast

(CNN) – Two American volunteers fighting for Ukraine have been taken into custody by Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk after being captured last week, according to Russian state media.

US citizens Alexander John-Robert Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Hartselle, Alabama, were interviewed by Russian broadcaster RT at a detention center in the so-called Republic People’s Republic of Donetsk (DPR) on Friday, according to a report published on RT.

The two Americans disappeared on June 9 during a battle north of Kharkiv and it was feared they had been captured by Russian forces, according to their families and a fellow fighter.

On Friday, short video clips surfaced on pro-Russian channels and social media appearing to show the men being held at an unknown location. At the time, it was unclear who held them.

A State Department spokesperson told CNN on Friday that they “had seen the photos and videos of these two American citizens who were allegedly captured by Russian military forces in Ukraine” and were “closely monitoring the situation”.

“We are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities, the International Committee of the Red Cross and with the families themselves,” they continued. “For privacy reasons, we have no further comment on these cases.”

Separately, an edited video of more than 50 minutes was posted on Saturday of Drueke and Huynh being interviewed by HelmCast, a pro-Russian Serbian nationalist YouTube channel.

In the interview, a man behind the camera can be heard revealing the location of their interview when he says “here in Donetsk” when questioning Drueke.

Drueke is also asked in the interview if he has any objections to the way he has been treated since his capture and he reveals that he has been beaten.

CNN chose not to air the videos of American detainees because they show men speaking under duress.

About the development

The whereabouts of Drueke and Huynh is a potentially concerning development. Russia has a moratorium on the death penalty, while Donetsk uses firing squads to execute convicts, according to Russian state media RIA Novosti.

On June 9, a DPR court sentenced foreign fighters, two British citizens and a Moroccan national, to death after accusing them of being “mercenaries” for Ukraine. The unrecognized international tribunal in the DPR said the men had one month to appeal their verdicts.

Hopes that a prisoner swap between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists could free foreign fighters held in Donetsk appear to have been dashed after Denis Pushilin, the self-proclaimed DPR leader, said such swaps were out of the question.

“The exchange of Britons on death row in the DPR is not under discussion, there is no reason to forgive them,” Pushilin told the independent Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta on Thursday.

The Donetsk People’s Republic did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Drueke and Huynh’s detention.

A former soldier describes the battle

Speaking exclusively to CNN’s Sam Kiley, a former US service member fighting with Ukrainian forces recounted the battle he witnessed on June 9, when Huynh and Drueke were allegedly captured.

The man, who asked to be identified with the code name “Pip”, said his team had been sent on a mission east of Kharkiv where a large-scale Russian armored assault was underway.

Huynh and Drueke fired an RPG at a BMP – an infantry fighting vehicle – that was going through the woods and destroyed it, according to Pip. But the team had to withdraw quickly as more than 100 Russian infantry began advancing and the American fighters found themselves in a village they previously thought was in Ukrainian hands.

Asked what happened to Huynh and Drueke, Pip said: “We suspect they were knocked out either by the T-72 tank firing at them or by the mine exploding. It’s just speculation, we don’t know what really happened to them.

Separately, a man who was acting as the team’s sergeant and who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons previously told CNN that “it was absolute chaos.”

“There were about a hundred plus infantry advancing on our positions. We had a T-72 shooting at people from 30, 40 meters away,” he said.

A photo of the pair emerged Thursday with their hands tied behind them and in the back of a Russian truck. The undated photo was posted on Telegram on Thursday by a Russian blogger. CNN could not independently verify when the photo was taken.

Third American missing

A third American, who the State Department said was missing in Ukraine, has been identified as U.S. Navy veteran Grady Kurpasi, his wife confirmed to CNN on Thursday.

The last time Heeson Kim and other close friends heard of Kurpasi was between April 23 and 24, George Heath, a family friend of Kurpasi told CNN. Kurpasi served in the United States Marine Corps for 20 years, retiring in November 2021. He chose to volunteer alongside Ukrainians in Ukraine, but initially did not see himself fighting on the front lines of war, Heath said.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden said he was notified of the three Americans missing in Ukraine. In remarks to reporters, Biden has repeatedly said Americans should not travel to Ukraine at this time.

“We don’t know where they are, but I want to say it again: Americans shouldn’t be going to Ukraine right now,” Biden said in response to a question from CNN’s MJ Lee at the White House.

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Post expires at 10:21pm on Thursday June 30th, 2022