Two former US servicemen who volunteered for the war effort in Ukraine were reportedly captured by Russian forces near the city of Kharkiv during an “absolutely crazy” mission.
Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, were reportedly piloting a rocket-propelled grenade launcher when Russian tanks rolled into a 10-man Ukrainian army squad last Thursday in the village of Izbytske, in 30 miles northeast of Kharkiv, the British Telegraph reported Wednesday.
“We are aware of unconfirmed reports of two US citizens being captured in Ukraine,” the State Department told The Telegraph.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities. For confidentiality reasons, we have no further comments.”
Drueke is a US Army veteran who served in Iraq and, according to his mother, suffered from PTSD and struggled to hold down a job before volunteering for the Ukrainian war effort.
“The US Embassy has assured me that they are doing everything they can to find him and are looking for him alive, not dead,” Lois Drueke told The Telegraph. “I’m doing my best not to crumble, I’m going to stay strong. I’m hopeful they’ll keep him to trade him for Russian POWs.”
Huynh is a US Navy veteran who reportedly joined the Ukrainian war effort in April.
They would be the first American veteran prisoners of the Russian war in Ukraine, joining a trio of Britons who were captured, according to the report: Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner and Andrew Hill.
Aslin and Pinner were reportedly declared “mercenaries” last week and sentenced to death by a court in the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic.
The return of the two American veterans will be a difficult question, especially since Russia could leverage them for sanctions relief from the Biden administration, The Telegraph reported.
“We were on a mission and it all went completely crazy, with bad information,” a source serving with the two Americans told The Telegraph. “We were told that the town was clear, when it turned out that the Russians were already attacking it. They descended on the road with two T72 tanks and several BMP3s (armoured fighting vehicles) and about 100 infantry. The only thing that was there was our 10-man party.”
The Americans hit a BMP3 with an RPG before a T72 tank fired in their direction, potentially knocking them out, the source added.
“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 us,” the source told the Telegraph. “They opened fire and put it out with their first shot.”
It is believed that Russian forces have captured Drueke and Huynh.
“Everything was very chaotic, but we suspect they were knocked out either by the explosion of the tank that shot at them or by the explosion of the anti-tank mine, as subsequent search missions found no signs of them,” the source said. told the Telegraph.
“Afterwards, we sent drones and sent a Ukrainian search team to the field, but we found nothing. If they had been hit by the shell of the tank, there would have been remains of their bodies or their equipment on the premises.”
A Russian Telegram post reported the capture of two Americans that night.
“Group Z has had some success in the destination of Kharkiv over the past couple of days,” the post read. “We have taken 10-20 Ukrainian soldiers hostage and also today two American mercenaries.”
The source denied being mercenaries for the Ukrainian military.
“It’s too much of a coincidence for it to have happened otherwise – we’re the only Americans fighting in this area,” the source told The Telegraph of the Telegram post.
“We are not mercenaries, nor are we part of a militia. We serve under the command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. I speak on behalf of my fallen comrades, because I want it to be made public that they are missing , so that the Russian high command is also made aware.
“This hopefully reduces the chances of them being quietly executed by whoever is holding them further down the chain.”
Drueke went to Ukraine to help train his army for combat, his mother told the Telegraph.
“Alex was convinced that Mr. (Vladimir) Putin had to be arrested; it would lead to another world war,” she said. “He said he knows how to train people and he can do his bit.
“I was scared he would go out there, but once he was there he looked happy for the first time in years. He loved being back in the military world with a sense of purpose. goal, and he said he fell in love with Ukraine.”
Huynh had no combat experience from his four years in the Marines, but volunteering to help Ukraine was “gnawing at him”, his fiancée Joy Black told the Telegraph.
“He said to me, ‘They’re attacking with 60 battalions, do you know how many that is?'” Black told the Telegraph. “At first, I didn’t really take him seriously, but he was reading all these stories of young Ukrainian men having to fight from the age of 18, and he felt he had to try to help.
“I tried to persuade him not to go, but I think his mind was made up. I could see how much it was eating at him. Eventually he apologized to me and told me that he really had to go.”
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