U.S. military veteran Alexander Drueke, seen in a Facebook profile picture.
Multiple reports say the first American citizens and volunteer fighters in Ukraine are feared captured by Russian forces. The two men identified, U.S. military veteran Alexander Drueke and ex-Marine Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, have been missing for a week and were apparently captured during clashes around the embattled city of Kharkiv in the country’s east. Both were fighting officially for a Ukrainian military unit, according to the Telegraph.
This would be the first time since the invasion in February that Americans became Russian prisoners of war, joining other foreign nationals who were captured while fighting for the Ukrainian war effort. “We are aware of unconfirmed reports of two U.S. citizens captured in Ukraine,” a State Department spokesperson told VICE News. “We are closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with Ukrainian authorities.”In recent weeks, two British men, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, and Moroccan national Brahim Saadoun, were sentenced to the death penalty as “mercenaries” by the Donetsk People’s Republic—an unrecognized Kremlin puppet state in the east of Ukraine—after being captured during the siege of Mariupol. In April, the State Department quickly refuted claims from Russian trolls that an American special forces soldier was killed or captured in Ukraine. Even so, the possibility of one of its citizens being captured was always possible as thousands of foreign volunteers have joined the war in Ukraine on the side of Kyiv, which includes several known Americans.
“We also once again reiterate that U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict and the singling out of U.S. citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials,” the spokesperson also warned. One former private military contractor, the professional name for what is a soldier-for-hire, with knowledge of the broad network of U.S. military veterans who’ve gone to Ukraine said that many don't realize the realities of this particular conflict.“I think despite the fetishization of war, it’s important for people to understand it’s not a hobby,” he told VICE News, declining to be named for security concerns. “There’s a big difference between kitting up and shooting a bunch on a flat range and volunteering to fight a conventional force without an ideal amount of supporting assets.”Follow Ben Makuch on Twitter.