Family members of two missing US citizens who traveled to eastern Ukraine to fight in the Russian-Ukrainian war fear they may have been captured by Russians, The Telegraph reported on Thursday.
Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Huynh, 27, of Hartselle, Alabama, were last heard from by their families on June 8. They were assigned to Kharkiv, Ukraine, on a mission and did not return, according to Reuters.
There is no confirmation from the State Department that they were captured, Reuters reported. If captured, they would be the conflict’s first American POWs.
“What we officially know at this point from the State Department is that Andy and Alex are missing,” Huynh’s fiancee Joy Black reportedly told Reuters. “We have no confirmation for anything beyond that. Obviously, the longer the search goes on, the more we start to consider other scenarios.
A comrade of the couple reportedly told The Telegraph the men were captured ‘after encountering a much larger Russian force in battle’ in Izbytske, 8km from the Russian border. They were part of a 10-man unit and ran into a 100-man Russian unit with tanks, he reportedly told the outlet.
Drueke and Huynh “piloted an RPG7 rocket launcher together,” the man reportedly added. (RELATED: ‘His legs were gone’: Canadian sniper Wali describes the worst day of Struggle In Ukraine)
“Everyone took cover waiting for one of the tanks to hit the anti-tank mine, but Alex and Andy saw a BMP3 coming from another direction through the woods and realized it would kill most of them. ‘between us. They opened fire and put it out with their first shot,’ he said, according to the outlet.
A Russian tank then returned fire and Drueke and Huynh appeared to disappear in a haze of smoke, he reportedly added, believing they had been captured by the Russians. No remains of the men have been found and a Russian Telegram channel boasted that Russian soldiers had captured two American “mercenaries”, the man reportedly added.
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Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the United States has not contacted Russia about the two men, Reuters reported, citing Ria news agency.
Drueke is a veteran, comes from a family of veterans and has spent two tours in Iraq, according to CBS42. When the war broke out, he wanted to help Ukrainians “stand up for democracy”, his mother said, according to the outlet.
“When Russia invaded Ukraine, Alex immediately told me he wanted to use his skills to train Ukrainians in the use of American weapons,” Drueke’s mother, Bunny, said, according to the outlet. “He is not married, he has no children and he has the training and the experience. He felt it was his duty to help defend democracy where needed.
Huynh served in the Marines but had no combat experience, according to The Telegraph.
“When Andy saw this footage from Ukraine, he said he couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, was just consumed by the horror these innocent civilians were going through,” Black said, according to Reuters.
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