This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The U.S. State Department said on June 21 that Russian authorities have not provided the United States with any additional details on the whereabouts of two Americans captured in Ukraine.
Spokesman Ned Price told reporters that the U.S. was pursuing every channel and every opportunity to learn more and support the families of the two Americans, who were captured earlier this month while fighting with the Ukrainian military.
The Kremlin claimed on June 21 that the two men were not protected by the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war and suggested that they could face execution.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a call with reporters that Moscow could not rule out that the two captured men would be sentenced to death if put on trial by Russia-backed separatists.
“We are talking about mercenaries who threatened the lives of our service personnel. And not only ours, but also the service personnel of the DPR and LPR,” he said referring to the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, the names used by the separatists for the two regions of Ukraine.
“We cannot exclude anything because these are decisions for the court,” Peskov said when asked whether the Americans would be put on trial like two Britons and a Moroccan captured while fighting for Ukraine. “We never comment on them and have no right to interfere in court decisions.”
White House national-security spokesman John Kirby said it was “appalling that a public official in Russia would even suggest the death penalty” for the Americans. He said the Kremlin was being at the very least reckless with its comments.
“Either way, it’s equally alarming. Whether they actually mean what they’re saying here, and that this could be an outcome, that they could levy a death penalty against two Americans that were fighting in Ukraine, or that they just feel that it’s a responsible thing for a major power to do, to talk about doing this,” he said.
Kirby declined to say what steps the U.S. would take if Russia does not treat Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, both from Alabama, as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.
The men, veterans of the U.S. military, went missing while fighting near Kharkiv. Russian state media later showed video interviews with them and said they had been captured by Russia-backed separatists.
They are among hundreds of foreigners from the West who have volunteered to fight for Ukraine since Russia launched the invasion.
The two Britons, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, and the Moroccan, Saaudun Brahim, were sentenced to death after a closed trial on June 9 by Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern region of Donetsk for “mercenary activities.” All three say they were serving in the Ukrainian military when they were captured by pro-Russian forces.