State-controlled Russian media published videos on Friday that they say show two Americans missing in Ukraine.
Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, both former servicemen from Alabama, volunteered to help Ukrainian forces in the war against Russia, U.S. officials and their families said. They have both been without news since June 8, when they were in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine, their families said.
On Friday, the state-controlled newspaper Izvestia published a 37-second video which it claims depicts Huynh. In it, he can be heard making a pro-Russian statement while a Russian translation plays over the images.
Russian state-controlled media RT also posted footage of an interview it says is with Huynh.
An RT reporter has posted a 10-second video he says shows Drueke, during which he can be heard addressing his mother directly on camera.
“I hope to be back home as soon as possible,” he said, wearing fatigues and sitting in what appears to be an office.
In a post on its website, RT said its interviews with Huynh and Drueke were conducted at a detention center in Ukraine’s Donbass region on Thursday.
The videos come a day after a photo that appears to show the pair with their hands behind their backs began circulating online.
The US State Department is aware of the photo and videos of the two US citizens “who were allegedly captured by Russian military forces in Ukraine”, a spokesperson said on Friday.
The former servicemen have been in Ukraine since April and met in the country, their families said.
Drueke, an Army veteran, wanted to help train Ukrainian forces, his mother, Lois “Bunny” Drueke, told “Good Morning America.”
“He wanted to go and help train Ukrainian soldiers and show them how to use the equipment that the United States sent them there,” she said.
She said she last heard from her son in a text message on June 8. He said he was with Huynh at the time, and there were unverified reports that they may have been captured by Russian forces, she said.
Huynh, a former Marine who rose to the rank of corporal, went to help defend Ukraine during the war, his fiancée, Joy Black, told ‘Good Morning America’.
“We really want him back,” Black said through tears. “He has such a big heart. He knew it wasn’t the easy thing, but it was the right thing.”
Two Alabama lawmakers said Wednesday that the men’s families have asked for their help in locating them.
Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., said his office contacted the State Department and the FBI to “get all possible information” about Huynh’s whereabouts after his family contacted the member’s office. Congress this week.
Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., said her office had been in contact with the State Department, the FBI and other members of the Alabama congressional delegation after Drueke’s family contacted for help this week after losing contact with him for several days.
Drueke’s family also said they are aware of the new photo circulating which appears to show the missing men.
“Our State Department contact is aware of possible photographic evidence of Alex and Andy’s capture circulating in Russian media,” the Drueke family said in a statement to ABC News. “They are working to verify it. We are very hopeful.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday he had no information about the missing men when asked about Drueke and Huynh.
The State Department said it was compelled to discuss the matter due to confidentiality concerns.
“We are limited in terms of what we know at this time,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Thursday. “We are closely monitoring the situation, we are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities, as well as with the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the families of the two missing American citizens.”
Price said the State Department had no direct communication with Russia regarding the fate of the two men.
“If we believe that such outreach through our embassy in Moscow or otherwise would be productive in terms of uncovering more information about the fate of these people, we will not hesitate to do so,” he said. .
Price said the department was also aware of a third unidentified American who traveled to Ukraine to fight and whose “whereabouts are not known.”
“As well, we understand that this individual traveled to Ukraine to take up arms,” Price said, adding that the person had been identified as missing “in recent weeks” and that the State Department was also in contact with his family.
A family spokesperson told ABC News that the missing American is retired Captain Grady Kurpasi, who served 12 years in the Marine Corps.
“We’ve had so many leads that he may not be alive anymore, and we’ve had so many leads that he’s a prisoner of war,” family spokesman Don Turner said. , to ABC News.
Kurpasi’s wife, Soohee Kim, told ABC News her husband left Wilmington, North Carolina on March 7 for Ukraine and heard from him in late April. She said she was in regular contact with the State Department and heard from it almost daily.
Turner said they wouldn’t stop looking for him.
“The Marines don’t leave anyone behind,” Turner said. “At the moment he has not been left behind as we are still trying to find him.”
The State Department has warned US citizens against traveling to Ukraine during the war and that Russian security officials may “target” US citizens.
ABC News’ Christopher Looft, Shannon Crawford, Vera Drymon and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.
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