American veterans captured in Ukraine could face death penalty, Russians say

Leada Gore (TNS)

Two American veterans captured while fighting in Ukraine were in the country illegally and could face the death penalty, Russian officials say.

This undated photograph provided by Diane Williams shows U.S. military veteran Alexander Drueke of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and his mother, Lois "Bunny" Drueke. Alex Drueke traveled to Ukraine to help with the fight against Russian invaders and was later reported missing.

Speaking to NBC News, Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the fate of Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, and Army Sgt. Alexander Drueke, 39, both of Alabama, will be decided by a Russian court.

They were “involved in illegal activities... (and) should be punished,” he told NBC News, adding they weren’t likely to be protected by Geneva Conventions afforded prisoners of war because they weren’t part of Ukraine’s regular army.

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Russian has sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan to death after they were captured in Ukraine, saying they were mercenaries and not provided protection as prisoners of war. When asked if the Alabama men faced the same fate, Petrov told NBC News he “cannot guarantee anything. It depends on the investigation.”

This photo taken April 6, 2022, in Hartselle, Ala., shows U.S. Marine veteran Andy Tai Huynh, who decided to fight with Ukraine in the war against Russia. Huyhn and another veteran from Alabama haven't been heard from in days according to relatives and are considering missing.

The U.S. State Department called on the Russian government to “live up to their international obligations in their treatment of any individual, including those captured fighting in Ukraine.”

Huynh and Drueke traveled to the war-torn country in April and went missing around June 8 in the Kharkiv area of Ukraine. Later reports indicated the men were taken prisoner during a fight with Russian armored forces and video on Russian TV appears to show the men tied in the back of a truck.

Huynh and Drueke are believed to be the first Americans captured by Russian forces since the Ukraine invasion began in late February.