Two US military veterans who volunteer in Ukraine missing

Two American veterans who volunteered to join the effort against Russia in Ukraine have been reported missing by their families.

Alabama residents Alex Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh have not been heard from since last week, the families said Wednesday, and relatives said they were worried about what might have happened to the duo.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday there were reports of a possible third US citizen missing while fighting in the country.

“I can’t speak to the specifics of this case,” Price said during a briefing. “Unfortunately, we don’t know all the details of this case.”

Drueke, 39, is a former U.S. Army member from Tuscaloosa who served two tours in Iraq, his family told NBC News.

His mother, Lois, said she received a phone call on Monday from a friend of hers, who told her that a mission had gone wrong and that two men, including her son, had not returned.

Alex Drueke.
Alex Drueke. Facebook

She said in their last communication last Wednesday, her son wrote to her that he would be going “dark” for a few days. She replied, “Stay safe. And I love you,” to which he replied, “I love you too,” she said, holding back tears. She hasn’t heard from him since.

Lois Drueke said her son was not in Ukraine to fight, but was there more in an advisory capacity as a “civilian with a military background”, so she didn’t know why he was included in the assignment.

“When he saw what was happening in Ukraine, he said, ‘Mom, I have to go and help train these soldiers so that Putin can’t have the assurance that he can just overthrow Ukraine and other country, because it will eventually attack us,” she said.

“‘And I feel like if we can stop it there in Ukraine, then I’m helping keep Americans safe,'” Lois Drueke recalled of her son Russian President Vladimir Putin.

She expressed fears the pair had been captured, but said it had not been verified. NBC News has reached out to the Kremlin, as well as the Russian Defense and Foreign Ministries for comment.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that Washington had yet to contact the ministry about media reports of “two American mercenaries detained in the outskirts of Kharkiv”, the report reported. official Ria news agency.

Lois Drueke said the family did not know if Drueke had been captured and that it was possible he and Huynh were still “evading the enemy”. The possibility of him being detained in Russia worries her, she said, but she knew that Ukraine and the US government were actively looking for the couple.

“At worst, I know he was doing something he thought was really good and noble,” she said, her voice cracking again.

U.S. officials have been in contact with the Ukrainian government as well as other nongovernmental organizations in the region as they monitor the situation, Price said. There has been no information that the missing Americans are being held by Russia, Price noted.

“Right now we’ve seen the open press reports, the same reports you’ve all seen, but we don’t have independent confirmation of their whereabouts,” Price said.

Rep. Terri A. Sewell, D-Ala., tweeted late Wednesday that Drueke’s mother contacted her office after losing contact with her son, and that they are doing “everything in our power to help locate him and find answers for his family.”

Meanwhile, Huynh’s family has contacted Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., he said in a statement Wednesday. Aderholt said the family told him they had not been in contact with Huynh since June 8, when he was in the Kharkiv city area in northeastern Ukraine. He said Huynh, 27, had volunteered to go fight with the Ukrainian army against Russia. “As you can imagine his loved ones are very worried about him,” Aderholt said.

Andy Huynh.
Andy Huynh.Facebook

Huynh is from Orange County, Calif., but recently lived in the community of Hartselle, Alabama and was engaged, said his fiancée’s brother, Zachary Polk.

“He met her online,” Polk said. “He’s from California. He’s a former US Marine. He came here to Alabama, joined our church, and met my sister after he got out.

“He felt he needed to help them, so he went out there to see what help he could provide,” Polk said.

Darla Joy Black, the mother of Huynh’s fiancée, posted on Facebook that the couple were missing.

“Nothing else is officially confirmed,” she said. “Please keep Andy, Alex and all their loved ones in prayer. We just want them to come home.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday he could not confirm reports of the two missing Americans. He reiterated that the United States discourages Americans from traveling to Ukraine and fighting there.

“It’s a war zone,” he said. “It’s fighting. And if you feel passionate about supporting Ukraine, there are plenty of other ways to do it that are safer and just as effective. Ukraine is not the place. where Americans travel.

Joe Cirincione, a distinguished fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft in Washington, DC, told NBC News that Americans who want to help Ukraine, whether by fighting or helping train its soldiers to use the weapons provided by the United States, should be allowed to go. But, he added, the incident highlights the risks created when they do.

“I fear they are being used as pawns by the Russians now in their efforts to try to roll back the United States and the West on sanctions. Any release of these Americans will no doubt be conditional on easing sanctions against Russia,” Cirincione said.

Earlier Wednesday, a State Department spokesperson said it was aware of reports of two US citizens being captured in Ukraine and was monitoring the situation closely.

U.S. officials are in contact with Ukrainian authorities, said the spokesperson, who declined to comment further, citing confidentiality considerations.

Ukraine appealed at the start of the war for trained fighters from around the world to volunteer and join its foreign legion.

Last week, two British citizens and a Moroccan, whom Russian officials described as “mercenaries”, were sentenced to death by pro-Moscow separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

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Post expires at 4:16am on Tuesday June 28th, 2022