US agency aware of photograph showing two Americans captured by Russians | US news

The US State Department is aware of a photograph appearing to show two missing Americans volunteering to defend Ukraine from Russian invaders in the back of a military truck, their hands tied behind them, appearing to offer the evidence that they were captured, a relative of one of the men said Thursday.

At least one copy of the photograph in question depicting Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh was circulating on the Telegram social media platform, popular in Russia and Ukraine. An accompanying caption in Russian appeared to poke fun at the pair, saying a trip to Ukraine “for easy money” ended badly, according to a rough translation provided by Google.

An aunt of Drueke, Dianna Shaw, said her family’s contact at the US State Department was “aware of this possible photographic evidence of capture circulating in the Russian media, (and) they are working to verify it”.

“We have a lot of hope,” Shaw said.

Earlier in the day, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters during a briefing that his agency had seen nothing from Russia indicating it had detained Drueke and Huynh. Another State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the photograph on Telegram and highlighted Price’s remarks during the press conference.

Captive Americans would complicate the US approach to the Ukraine-Russia war. The US military is pumping billions of dollars into Ukraine but avoiding a direct confrontation with Russia.

Drueke and Huynh, both military veterans who lived in Alabama, would be the first known American fighters to volunteer to serve in Ukraine’s defense to be captured since the invasion began in February.

They had not been heard from for days, members of the Alabama congressional delegation said Wednesday.

As Joe Biden’s administration has discouraged Americans from traveling to Ukraine to help defend the country, a White House spokesperson has pledged to do “everything we can to bring them home safely”.

Drueke, 39, and Huynh, 27, are believed to be among hundreds of Americans – if not more – who have traveled to Ukraine hoping to help repel the Russian invasion. They are among at least three Americans who were considered missing in Ukraine on Thursday.

The third of those Americans was U.S. Navy veteran Grady Kurpasi, CNN reported, citing his wife as the source.

The Telegraph newspaper, which was first to report that Drueke and Huynh were missing, cited the account of another unnamed fighter who said the couple were taken prisoner after encountering a larger Russian force during a June 9 battle northeast of Kharkiv.

Huynh’s fiancée, Joy Black, told Alabama news station WAAY-TV that she received a message from a soldier telling her the two Americans were in an area that had been “quite hard hit” before missing their rendezvous point.

“I’m trying to stay strong for him to get that word out and try to bring it home,” Black told WAAY-TV. “I’m not going to lie and say it wasn’t really, really difficult.”

Drueke served two combat tours in Iraq and taught Ukrainian troops how to use American-made weapons, his relatives said.

During this time, Huynh spent four years with the US Marines.

Price, the State Department spokesman, urged Russia to treat all captured American volunteers humanely, as required by treaties collectively known as the Geneva Conventions.

“The Russians have certain obligations and members of the Ukrainian armed forces – including volunteers who may be third-country nationals drafted into the armed forces – must be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva conventions,” he said. Price. “(They shall be afforded) the treatment and protections commensurate with that status, including humane treatment and fundamental procedural and fair trial guarantees.”

Prior to the fate of Huynh and Drueke, two British nationals were reportedly killed in fighting in Ukraine, and two other Britons face the death penalty after being arrested and convicted as mercenaries by a pro-Russian court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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