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2 US veterans from Alabama have been reported missing in Ukraine

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama. – Two US veterans from Alabama who were in Ukraine to assist with the War against Russia has not been heard from in days and is missing, members of the state’s congressional delegation said on Wednesday.

Relatives of Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Trinity, and Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, have contacted Senate and House offices for information on the whereabouts of the men, sources said.

MP Robert Aderholt said Huynh volunteered to fight with the Ukrainian army against Russia, but his relatives had not heard from him since June 8, when he was in the Kharkiv region of north-eastern Ukraine, near the stopped at the Russian border. Huynh and Drueke were together, said one of Aderholt’s aides.

“As you can imagine, his loved ones are very concerned for him,” Aderholt said in a statement. “My office has been checking with both the U.S. Department of State and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for all sorts of information.”

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MP Terri Sewell said Drueke’s mother contacted her office earlier this week after losing contact with her son.

The US State Department said it is reviewing reports that Russian or Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine have captured at least two American citizens. If confirmed, they would be the first Americans fighting for Ukraine known to have been captured since the war began on February 24.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities,” the department said in a statement emailed to reporters. She declined to comment further, citing privacy concerns.

John Kirby, a White House national security spokesman, said Wednesday that the government could not confirm reports of missing Americans.

“We will do our best to monitor this and see what we can learn about it,” he said.

However, he reiterated his warnings against the Americans traveling to Ukraine.

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“Ukraine is not the place for Americans to travel,” he said. “If you’re passionate about supporting Ukraine, there are a number of ways to do so that are safer and just as effective.”

A court in Donetsk, under separatist control, sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan to death last week. The British and Moroccans have been accused of being mercenaries and seeking to violently overthrow the separatist government in the Donetsk region. The Russian military has said it regards foreigners fighting with Ukraine as mercenaries and claims that as combatants they are not protected under the Geneva Convention.

Huynh’s fiancée, Joy Black, publicly posted on Facebook that his family is in contact with the Drueke family and government officials and that nothing has been confirmed except that the two are missing.

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“Please keep Andy and Alex and all their loved ones in prayer. We just want them to come home,” she wrote.

US Congressman Adam Kinzinger tweeted that Americans “enlisted in the Ukrainian army and therefore enjoy legal combatant protection. As such, we expect members of the Legion to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention.” It was unclear whether Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, had additional information about the men.

Commenting on a tweet sent Wednesday by Task Force Baguette, a group of former US and French soldiers, he said two Americans who fought with them were captured a week ago. The group said Ukrainian intelligence has confirmed the information.

At the beginning of the war, Ukraine created the International Legion for foreign citizens who wanted to help defend against the Russian invasion.

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Huynh spoke to his local newspaper, the Decatur Dailyshortly before departure for Eastern Europe in April.

He explained that he was studying robotics at Calhoun Community College but couldn’t stop thinking about the Russian invasion.

“I know it wasn’t my problem, but there was this gut feeling that I felt like I had to do something,” Huynh told the Decatur Daily. “Two weeks into the war it just ate at me and it just felt wrong. I lost sleep. … All I could think about was the situation in Ukraine.”

He said he decided to fly out when he learned that young Ukrainians were being drafted into military service.

“As soon as they turned 18, they were forced to enlist in the military to defend their homeland,” Huynh said. “To be honest, that broke my heart. I would say that’s probably the moment I decided I had to do something.”

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According to the newspaper, Huynh enlisted in the Marines when he was 19 and served for four years, although he did not see active combat.

Born and raised in Orange County, California, to Vietnamese immigrants, he moved to northern Alabama two years ago to be closer to his fiancé, the newspaper reported.

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Associated Press writers Lynn Berry in Washington and Chris Megerian in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/06/15/2-us-veterans-from-alabama-reported-missing-in-ukraine/ 2 US veterans from Alabama have been reported missing in Ukraine

Sarah Y. Kim

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