A US Air Force veteran living in Ukraine has been detained by pro-Russian separatists, his brother has said, becoming at least the third American to be captured in Ukraine since the war began.
Russian soldiers arrested Suedi Murekezi, 35, in the southern city of Kherson in early June and falsely accused him of taking part in pro-Ukrainian protests, Sele Murekezi said on Saturday. He said his brother called him last week and told him he was being held in the Donetsk People’s Republic, a breakaway region in eastern Ukraine, along with two other captured Americans, Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Huynh.
A State Department spokesperson said the agency was aware of “unconfirmed reports” that Suedi Murekezi had been captured, but declined to comment further, citing “confidentiality considerations”.
Originally from Rwanda, Suedi Murekezi moved to the United States as a teenager and served in the air force for eight years, his brother said. Suedi Murekezi moved to Ukraine in 2018 for its vibrant tech sector and later settled in Kherson, the administrative center of a region of the same name.
Sele Murekezi, who lives in Minnesota, said he urged his brother to leave Ukraine before the Russian invasion, but Suedi Murekezi resisted on principle and refused to abandon his close friends there.
On July 7, Sele Murekezi received a phone call from an unknown number. The caller passed the phone to Suedi Murekezi, who said he was being detained and wrongly accused of participating in pro-Ukrainian protests. He said he was not injured or tortured.
His brother is unsure if he should believe that Suedi Murekezi is unharmed. Sele Murekezi said that when he spoke to his brother in their native language during the call, Suedi Murekezi answered in English, which made Sele Murekezi fear that someone was monitoring the conversation.
For Sele Murekezi, the brief exchange offers proof that at least his brother is alive. He said he was in regular contact with the US Embassy in Kyiv and hopes his brother will be released.
“He did his part for America,” said Sele Murekezi. “And maybe America can do something for him, too.”
Alice Crites contributed to this report.
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