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US military veterans captured in Ukraine first seen in Russian TV footage

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Two US Army veterans who went missing in Ukraine last week appeared on a Russian news program telling their relatives that Russian separatists had captured them.

The footage released Friday by Russian media RT was the first time the missing men, Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, both from Alabama, had been seen since their disappearance on June 9.

“Mom, I just want to let you know that I’m alive and hope to be home as soon as possible,” Drueke said in the footage.

Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, two American military veterans from Alabama, who went missing in Ukraine last week appeared on a Russian news broadcast on June 17, 2022. (Lois "Rabbit" Drueke/Diane Williams via AP) (Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily via AP)

Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, two American military veterans from Alabama who went missing in Ukraine last week, appeared on a Russian news program on June 17, 2022. (Lois “Bunny” Drueke/Diane Williams via AP) (Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily via AP)
(AP Newsroom)

During the video, he is seen giving his mother a quick wink and telling her to take care of her dog. “So love Diesel for me. I love you,” he added.

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Dianna Shaw, Drueke’s aunt, said the video recording included a secret word and gesture they had discussed during his previous tours of Iraq, verifying his identity and letting him know he was fine.

RT broadcast the report in English, saying the two Americans were separated from their group when they approached a Russian patrol and surrendered. Russian-backed separatist forces are holding the men, the report adds.

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Drueke previously served in the US Army, which included two tours in Iraq. Huynh previously served in the US Marines.

Neither the United States nor the Russian government has confirmed that any American men were being held.

This undated photograph provided by Diane Williams shows U.S. military veteran Alexander Drueke of Tuscaloosa, Ala.  Drueke traveled to Ukraine to help in the fight against Russian invaders and was later reported missing.  (Lois "Rabbit" Drueke/Diane Williams via AP)

This undated photograph provided by Diane Williams shows U.S. military veteran Alexander Drueke of Tuscaloosa, Ala. Drueke traveled to Ukraine to help in the fight against Russian invaders and was later reported missing. (Lois “Bunny” Drueke/Diane Williams via AP)
(Lois “Bunny” Drueke/Diane Williams via AP)

Previously, the US government had declared that any American captured in Ukraine should be considered a prisoner of war and therefore protected as a combatant under generic conventions. Russian military officials, however, said international fighters would be considered mercenaries and would not enjoy those protections.

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On Friday, President Joe Biden was asked by a reporter about missing Americans.

This photo taken on April 6, 2022 in Hartselle, Alabama shows U.S. Navy veteran Andy Tai Huynh, who has decided to fight alongside Ukraine in the war against Russia.  (Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily via AP)

This photo taken on April 6, 2022 in Hartselle, Alabama shows U.S. Navy veteran Andy Tai Huynh, who has decided to fight alongside Ukraine in the war against Russia. (Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily via AP)
(Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily via AP)

“I don’t know where they are and I want to be clear: Americans shouldn’t go to Ukraine,” the president replied. “I repeat, Americans should not go to Ukraine.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Post expires at 1:07pm on Tuesday June 28th, 2022