Reports: Russians capture 2 American veterans in Ukraine

Russia At War

(NewsNation) — Two American military veterans have gone missing while fighting with a Ukrainian Army unit. Right now, their fate is unknown and there are reports they were captured by Russian forces.

This comes on the heels of the Biden administration announcing another $1 billion in aid for Ukraine.

Relatives of Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Trinity, Alabama, and Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, have been in contact with the state’s congressional delegation.

The mother of 39-year-old Drueke spoke to NewsNation. She confirmed that her son has gone missing while volunteering and fighting with the Ukrainian Army unit near Kharkiv.

She said Drueke once served in the U.S. military in Iraq.

Britain’s Daily Mail and military.com report that the American volunteers were captured near Kharkiv, the embattled Ukrainian city that has seen heavy fighting for several weeks.

Rep. Robert Aderholt told the Associated Press that Huynh volunteered to fight with the Ukrainian Army against Russia, but his relatives have not heard from him since June 8.

“As you can imagine, his loved ones are very concerned about him,” Aderholt said in a statement. “My office has placed inquires with both the United States Department of State and the Federal Bureau of Investigation trying to get any information possible.”

Huynh spoke to his local newspaper, the Decatur Daily, shortly before flying to Eastern Europe in April.

He explained that he was studying robotics at Calhoun Community College but couldn’t stop thinking about Russia’s invasion.

“I know it wasn’t my problem, but there was that gut feeling that I felt I had to do something,” Huynh told the Decatur Daily. “Two weeks after the war began, it kept eating me up inside and it just felt wrong. I was losing sleep. … All I could think about was the situation in Ukraine.”

He said he decided to fly out once he learned that young Ukrainians were being drafted into service.

“Right when they turned 18, they were forced to enlist in the military to defend their homeland,” Huynh said. “Honestly, that broke my heart. I would say that is probably the moment where I decided that I have to do something.”

According to the newspaper, Huynh enlisted in the Marines when he was 19 and served for four years, though he did not see active combat.

During a news conference at the White House earlier Wednesday, a National Security Council spokesman would not confirm reports of the missing veterans, but he warned Americans about traveling to the war zone and said the U.S. will focus on getting more information about what happened.

“Obviously, if it’s true, we’ll do everything we can to get them safely back home. I do think, however, that this is an important point in time to remind that we discourage Americans from going to Ukraine and fighting in Ukraine.  It is a war zone. It’s combat,” spokesman John Kirby said.

The U.S. State Department told reporters it was looking into reports that Russian or Russian-backed separatist forces in Ukraine had captured at least two American citizens. If confirmed, they would be the first Americans fighting for Ukraine known to have been captured since the war began Feb. 24.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with Ukrainian authorities,” the department said in a statement emailed to reporters. It declined further comment, citing privacy considerations.

The news comes the same day the Biden administration said it would commit another $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine. The money will help pay for weapons to defend the coastline, as well as additional artillery and ammunition for rocket systems.

In total, the Biden administration has provided more than $6 billion to the Ukrainian war effort. This latest round of military assistance hopes to slow down Russian forces making gains in the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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