Two American veterans who volunteered to fight for Ukraine and reportedly were captured by Russian forces will be tried and could face possible death sentences, according to the Kremlin.
Russia won’t rule out executing the detained Americans, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Monday, June 20, 2021, in an NBC News interview.
The U.S. State Department had not confirmed that Army veteran Alexander Drueke, 39, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and former Marine Andy Huynh, 27, from Hartselle, Alabama, have been captured by the Russians, Military.com reported. Their families reported them missing last week.
Both were interviewed at a detention center in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) on Friday, according to RT.
The location is problematic, CNN reported. Russia has a moratorium on the death penalty but Donetsk uses firing squads to execute condemned prisoners, according to Russian state media RIA Novosti.
Drueke and Huynh were “involved in illegal activities” in Ukraine, firing on Russian troops, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Those guys on the battlefield were firing at our military guys. They were endangering their lives … there will be a court decision. They should be punished,” he added, calling Drueke and Huynh “soldiers of fortune.”
Two British citizens and a Moroccan were sentenced to death by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine earlier this month.
The State Department said it has asked the Russian government to live up to international obligations in the treatment of any troops captured on the battlefield.
Peskov said that the Geneva Convention – the charter that sets out how soldiers and civilians are treated in wartime, including banning the execution of prisoners of war – does not apply to the two detained U.S. citizens.
“We are working hard to learn more about reports of Americans who may be in Russian custody or in the custody of Russian proxy forces,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said, adding that they have been “in direct contact with Russian authorities.”
The exact number of Americans volunteering in Ukraine is unknown, but an estimated 4,000 expressed interest after the invasion in late February, Washington Post reported. Many joined the fight after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky personally asked for foreign volunteers to travel there.
U.S. Navy veteran and former MSNBC defense analyst Malcolm Nance confirmed in an April 18 tweet that he was defending Ukraine against the Russian invasion by joining the country’s international legion, a military unit of volunteers. A counterterrorism specialist, Nance said he had been fighting in Ukraine for about a month.
Nance tweeted, “I’m DONE talking. #JoinTheLegion #StopRussia #SlavaUkraini.” He included a photo of himself holding a gun and dressed in full combat gear.
“We are here for one purpose, and one purpose only, and that is to protect the innocent people of Ukraine from this Russian aggression,” Nance told MSNBC host Joy Reid on April 18, referring to the International Legion of Territorial Defence of Ukraine, a military unit that includes 20,000 volunteers from 52 countries, Al Jazeera reported.
Nance, 60, is the founder and executive director of the Terror Asymmetrics Project, a nonprofit, non-partisan think tank and policy consultant on terrorism and defense. Nance runs the project with his partner Chris Sampson. Both have written numerous books on regional and functional aspects of terrorism. Nance is a frequent contributor to TV talk shows on security and global issues and a regular analyst on MSNBC.
Photos: Malcolm Nance, Twitter @MalcolmNance / Background image: Ukrainian soldiers walk next to a destroyed house near Donetsk, Ukraine, May 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)