A third American who traveled to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion may be missing in action, the State Department said Thursday, a day after the families of two American veterans fighting in Ukraine said the two men had disappeared together. when their platoon came under fire this year. month.
The possible third missing person was identified in recent weeks, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a briefing. “Unfortunately, we do not know the full details of that case,” he added.
The families of the two US veterans identified them as Alex Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh on Wednesday, and expressed fears that they may have been captured by Russian troops.
As of Thursday afternoon, the United States had not yet had contact with Russia about the two men, Mr Price said, confirming previous comments by a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman reported by Russian state news channels.
“If we had a credible reason to believe that these individuals were in Russian custody, we would pursue it,” he added, saying Foreign Ministry officials would contact Russia if they thought it was “would be productive”.
The United States has discussed the matter with British partners and the International Committee of the Red Cross, Price said.
The men were part of a small team of international volunteers working for Ukrainian intelligence and had joined the team less than a day before going on the mission that ended in captivity, said Chris Bowyer, a member of the unit that Ukraine left in late May after being injured in combat but receiving regular updates from the remaining team in Kharkiv.
“It was supposed to be a reconnaissance mission,” said Mr. bowyer. “They were told the village was safe, the Russians had been kicked out, and then they showed up to a Russian attack.”
The disappearance of volunteer fighters has underlined the danger faced by thousands of people from around the world who have traveled to Ukraine to take up arms on behalf of Kiev. The risk to foreign fighters was highlighted last week after two Britons and a Moroccan man were convicted of mercenaries and terrorists seeking to overthrow the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic and were sentenced to death by a court in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine.
International human rights experts, the US State Department and British officials say the men have the right to be treated as prisoners of war as they were part of the Ukrainian armed forces and are thus protected by the Geneva Conventions. But Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, said on Friday that the British people on death row were not defined as combatants under international law and therefore were not entitled to prisoner of war status.
If captured, Mr Drueke, Mr Huynh and the possibly missing third person would be the first Americans known to have become prisoners of war during the conflict.
Asked about the three men sentenced to death last week, Mr Price reiterated the United States’ position that “anyone fighting with the Ukrainian armed forces should be treated as prisoners of war,” regardless of whether Moscow considers them prisoners of war.