US urges citizens not to travel to Ukraine after reports of 2 Americans captured

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ALEXANDER DRUEKE. Photo taken from his Facebook profile.

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ALEXANDER DRUEKE. Photo taken from his Facebook profile.

The White House on Wednesday urged Americans not to travel to Ukraine after reports emerged that two Americans had been captured by Russian forces.

John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters that if the information is true, the United States “will do everything possible” to recover it.

Two US citizens who traveled to Ukraine as volunteer fighters against Russian forces have been missing for a week and fear capture, family members said Wednesday.

Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Huynh, 27, of Hartselle, Alabama, were last in contact with their families on June 8 and have not returned from a mission in the area of Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine.

Reports that the two men were taken as prisoners of war by Russia remain unconfirmed, the families and a US State Department spokesperson said.

“What we officially know at this point from the State Department is that Andy and Alex are missing,” Joy Black, Andy’s fiancée, said by phone.

“We don’t have any confirmation for anything beyond that. Obviously the longer the research gets, the more we start looking at other scenarios,” she added.

The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If the couple were captured, they would be the first confirmed US citizens to have been taken prisoners of war in the conflict which began on February 24 with Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering an invasion of his neighbour.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said if the information is true, the United States will “do everything possible” to recover it.

Last week, two British citizens and a Moroccan were sentenced to death by a separatist court in the unrecognized Russian-speaking Donetsk People’s Republic after they were caught fighting for Ukraine.

Lois Drueke, Alexander’s mother, said she had been in contact with the US Embassy for Ukraine, located in Poland, which was looking for the couple.

The two men had announced to their families on June 8 that they would go offline for a few days, but did not provide details for fear that their communications would be intercepted.

Drueke has served two tours in Iraq, the last as chief gunner in Baghdad in 2008-09, his mother said. Huynh is a former US Marine who left the service in 2018, his fiancée said.

They said the men did not know each other before meeting in Ukraine, but both felt compelled to support the government after seeing photos of civilian casualties as Russia withdrew from towns outside Kyiv end of March.

“When Andy saw this footage from Ukraine, he said he couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t eat, he was just consumed by the horror these innocent civilians were going through,” said Black.

Russia denies attacking civilians and has accused Western citizens of acting as “mercenaries”, saying Western support for Kyiv is prolonging the conflict and causing more casualties.

“As a mother, of course, I didn’t want my child to be in danger,” Lois Drueke said. “But I knew it was really important to Alex, he wanted purpose in his life and he felt it was good and noble.”


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