Two Americans fighting alongside Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv in Ukraine have been missing for nearly a week, their families and a fellow fighter said. The men are Alexander John-Robert Drueke, age 39, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, age 27, from Hartselle, Alabama. A man who wished to remain nameless for security reasons provided CNN with photos of both men’s passports and their entry stamps into Ukraine. The man said that the unit was fighting under the command of Ukraine’s 92nd mechanized brigade on June 9 near the town of Izbytske.
Drueke and Huynh were lost when the skirmish concluded. The subsequent search missions failed to find anyone’s remains in the area. The following day post on a Russian propaganda channel on Telegram reported information about two Americans that had been captured south of Kharkiv.
“It was absolute chaos,” he told CNN. “There was about a hundred infantrymen advancing on our positions and we had a T72 tank firing on people from 30, 40 meters away.”
Alex’s mom Bunny Grigorievna Drueke, after consulting with CNN, stated that for some time it was thought to be likely that they were being held captive, but that hasn’t been verified. She said that the US Embassy to Ukraine is currently not able to confirm whether or not her son has been captured.
The Department of State said that it had not been able to verify that Huynh and Drueke were with the Russians. All the State Department could confirm was that the two men were missing, spokeswoman Joy Black told CNN. “They stay in close touch with me, and I have every confidence that they are working on the situation,” she said.
It was a pretty standard conversation really; I told him I was getting food with my friends at our favorite restaurant, Black said. And he added, I love you very much. Then I pointed out, I will be unavailable for approximately two days. Which was for the operation they were doing. They got engaged just before he headed off for Ukraine she said.
The couple, who are engaged, decided not to get married before Black left for Afghanistan. “We didn’t know if we wanted to get married or get engaged before he left,” she said. “And we decided on just getting engaged so that when he came back we could get married and enjoy it and not be apart right after we got married.” Black said she is “very fragile” since her husband’s departure. “Even though not great stuff has happened, I’m still very proud of Andy for being strong,” she said.
The US State Department has confirmed that it is aware of unconfirmed reports that the Ukraine government has captured two US citizens. We are monitoring the situation and are in communication with Ukrainian authorities. Because of privacy considerations, we are unable to provide further information on this matter.
White House officials say they cannot confirm reports that two Americans involved in the conflict in Ukraine have been arrested by Russian authorities. John Kirby, who is the National Security Council coordinator for Strategic Communications, told CNN Wednesday that if the reports are true, “the United States will do everything we can to get them safely back home.” Kirby made the comments during Wednesday’s White House briefing. Pressed by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins during the briefing, Kirby said he could not confirm all of the details of the report but said, “it’s an important point in time to remind that we discourage Americans from going to Ukraine and fighting in Ukraine.” “It is a war zone,” Kirby said. “It’s combat. And if you feel passionate about supporting Ukraine, there’s any number of other ways to do that — which are safer and just as effective — than traveling there and being involved in combat operations. We just — Ukraine is not the place for Americans to be traveling at this point in time.” The US State Department said it is aware of reports that two American citizens have been detained by Russian authorities but could not confirm them.