Speaking exclusively to CNN’s Sam Kiley, a former US serviceman fighting with Ukrainian forces recounted the battle he witnessed on June 9, in which US volunteer fighters Alexander John-Robert Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh reportedly captured by Russian forces.
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.
Drueke and Huynh fired a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at a BMP vehicle traveling through the woods and destroyed it. 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 Drueke and Huynh, Pip said that “we suspect they were knocked out either by the T-72 tank firing at them or by the explosion of the mine. These are just speculation, we don’t know what really happened to them.”
A photo of the pair emerged Thursday with their hands tied behind their backs and in the back of a Russian truck.
“I know for a fact that Andy and Alex didn’t come here for the money, they didn’t come here for the glory. They came here with the firm belief that Ukraine, as a thriving democracy, needs help,” Pip told Kiley during the interview.
“As far as I know, we are paid about the same, if not exactly the same as a Ukrainian soldier who is on the front lines… And money is certainly not my motivation for being here. And I know it’s not Andy and it’s not Alex either,” he continued.
More background: On Wednesday, CNN reported that Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Huynh, 27, of Hartselle, Alabama, had been missing for nearly a week and were feared captured by Russian forces, according to their families. and a fellow fighter. Drueke and Huynh had fought alongside Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv.
CNN reported Thursday that a third American the State Department has identified as missing in action in Ukraine is U.S. Navy veteran Grady Kurpasi. He served in the US Marine Corps for 20 years, retiring in November 2021.
US President Joe Biden said on Friday he was notified of the three Americans missing in Ukraine. In brief remarks to reporters as he headed out for a weekend on the beach in Delaware, Biden repeatedly said Americans should not be traveling 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.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the department was in contact with the families of the missing Americans as well as with Ukrainian authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The US State Department told the family of one of the Americans missing in Ukraine on Thursday that there is potential evidence that Drueke was captured, but could not verify the photo at the time, said Bunny Drueke, Alexander’s mother, told CNN.
On Friday, videos surfaced on pro-Russian channels and social media appearing to show Drueke and Huynh being held at an unknown location. We don’t know who owns them.
Price said on Thursday that the United States was not in contact with Russia about the allegedly captured American citizens because it does not yet have a “credible reason” to believe the Russians captured them and also because Russia did not claim to have captured them.
On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN he knew nothing of the two American fighters. CNN has repeatedly contacted the Russian Defense Ministry for comment, but has yet to receive a response.
Read more here.
CNN’s Kate Sullivan and Jonny Hallam contributed to this post.
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Post expires at 7:14pm on Tuesday June 28th, 2022