Two U.S. military veterans who volunteered to fight in Ukraine were reportedly captured by Russian forces in the eastern city of Kharkiv last week.
The Telegraph first reported Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, were taken prisoner after running into a Russian armored unit last week. Teammates who reportedly fought alongside Drueke and Huynh told The Telegraph that they had entered an area they thought was clear, only to find themselves face to face with two Russian T-72 tanks and multiple BMP-3 armored vehicles.
Drueke is a U.S Army veteran who previously served in Iraq. Huynh is a U.S. Marine veteran. Both had volunteered to fight alongside a regular Ukrainian Army unit
“We were out on a mission and the whole thing went absolutely crazy, with bad intel,” one unnamed teammate told The Telegraph. “We were told the town was clear when it turned out the Russians were already assaulting it.”
“They came down the road with two T-72 tanks and multiple BMP-3s and about 100 infantry,” the teammate said. “The only thing that was there was our 10-man squad.”
The teammate said the 10-man team took up defensive positions and Drueke and Huynh staged a shot with a rocket-propelled grenade that took out one of the vehicles. When Drueke and Huynh fired the RPG, they caught the attention of one of the T-72s, which fired at the pair of Americans but is believed to have missed. The tank then rolled over an anti-tank man. It was during this chaotic series of events that Drueke and Huynh went missing.
“We suspect that they were knocked unconscious by either the anti-tank mine, or by the tank shooting at them,” a teammate told The Telegraph.
The Ukrainian fighters said subsequent searches for Drueke and Huynh turned up no traces of the two Americans.
“If they had been hit by the tank shell there would have been remains of their bodies or equipment at the scene,” a teammate said.
One teammate said the remaining fighters began to suspect Drueke and Huynh were captured, and those concerns were bolstered by a post on a pro-Russian channel on the Telegram app, that claimed two Americans were taken as prisoners of war near Kharkiv.
Drueke’s mother Lois told The Telegraph that the U.S. Embassy had been in contact with her about her son’s whereabouts.
“The US Embassy have assured me that they are doing everything they can to find him and that they are searching for him alive, not dead,” she said. “I am doing my best not to fall apart, I am going to stay strong. I am very hopeful that they will keep him to exchange for Russian POWs.”
The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to an American Military News request for comment on the matter.
The reported capture of the two U.S. volunteer fighters comes just days after pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine captured two British nationals and a Morrocan national in the eastern Donetsk region and, after a two-day trial, sentenced them to death for fighting as mercenaries. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called the trial a “sham” with “absolutely no legitimacy” and lawyers for the three men are actively trying to appeal their death sentences.
Alabama ABC affiliate WAAY reported in April about Huynh’s plans to travel to Ukraine and volunteer in the fighting against the ongoing Russian invasion. Huynh is originally from Orange County, California but moved to Hartselle, Alabama with his fiancé. Huynh reportedly put more than $6,000 of his own money towards his plan to travel to Ukraine to fight.