Two US veterans fighting in Ukraine are missing, relatives say.


Two American veterans who volunteered to fight in Ukraine are missing, their families said Wednesday.

One man was named Alex Drueke, 39, a former US Army staff sergeant who toured Iraq twice, his family said in a statement. The other was named Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, a former Marine, Darla Black, mother of Mr Huynh’s fiancée Joy Black, said in a telephone interview.

The US State Department said on Wednesday it was “aware of unconfirmed reports of two US citizens detained in Ukraine”.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities,” said a spokesman for the foreign ministry. “Due to privacy concerns, we have no further comment.”

It was not confirmed but it seemed most likely that Mr Drueke and Mr Huynh had disappeared together. Mr Drueke’s family said he was with “another volunteer soldier from the US” at the time, and Mrs Black said the two men had become friends during the war.

Mr Drueke’s platoon came under “heavy fire” on June 9, causing all of its members to relapse – except for Mr Drueke and the other American volunteer, according to his family’s statement. Reconnaissance on foot and by drone yielded no trace of the two soldiers, the statement continued.

Credit…Via Bunny Drueke

“This could mean that they are in hiding or that they have been captured,” said Mr. Drueke’s mother, Bunny Drueke.

The two men, if captured, would be the first Americans known to have become prisoners of war during the conflict.

The Drueke family was informed on Monday by another member of the platoon of the skirmish and the search for the two missing Americans, the family said in a statement.

“When Russia invaded Ukraine, Alex immediately told me that he wanted to use his skills to train Ukrainians to operate US weapons,” said Ms Drueke. ‘He is not married, has no children and has the training and experience. He felt it was his duty to help defend democracy where necessary.”

The statement described Mr Drueke as an avid hiker who had lived on family land in rural west Alabama before the war while hoping to plan “a new adventure” with his Mastiff rescue, Diesel.

In an interview with WAAY-TV, an ABC affiliate in northern Alabama, Mr. Huynh, who was identified as living in a small town in the Hartselle region and from Orange County, California, said he had decided to travel to Ukraine and fight after seeing 18 year olds fight for their freedom.

“I know there’s a chance I’m going to die,” he said. “I’m willing to give my life for what I think is right.”

Before going to Ukraine, Mr. Huynh robotics at a local university that Joy also attended, Ms. Black said. He had served in the Marines for four years and graduated high school straight away.

“Andy didn’t make the easy choice, he made the right choice,” Joy sobbed in a phone interview. “Andy didn’t go there for an adventure. He just wanted to help.”

Credit…via Darla Black

Both the Black and Drueke families said they last heard from the men on June 8, when they both said they would be out of range for a few days.

“Alex’s family has become our family,” Mrs. Black said. “If there’s anyone who understands how my daughter is feeling right now, it’s Alex’s mom, so we all feel connected.”

An Alabama congressional delegation — which includes Senators Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville, as well as Representatives Terri Sewell and Robert Aderholt, who represent the men’s districts — is coordinating with the State Department, said Hilary Beard, Ms. Sewell’s chief of staff. A spokesman for Governor Kay Ivey added that the delegation was also working with the FBI

Since the war started on February 24, an unknown number of foreigners have volunteered to help Ukraine in a variety of ways, including hundreds of US military veterans who have tried to join the fight. The State Department reiterated in its statement that US citizens are not allowed to travel to Ukraine.

There are no confirmed reports of Americans being captured, and only one American has been reported dead: Willy Joseph Cancel Jr., 22, a former Kentucky Naval infantryman who was killed on April 24 or 25 when his unit was overrun by Russian troops. troops, said Mr. Cancel, Christopher Cancel, in an interview with The New York Times.

Western governments and human rights groups were shaken last week when a court in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan man to death, accusing them of being mercenaries.

Dave Phillips reporting contributed.

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