(CNN) – Two Americans fight side by side with Ukrainian forces in the north of Kharkiv have been missing for nearly a week and there are fears they may have been captured by Russian forces, according to their families and a fellow combatant.
The men are Alexander John-Robert Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Hartselle, Alabama.
A man serving as the team’s sergeant, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, provided CNN with photos of both men’s passports and their entry stamps Ukraine. The man said that their unit under the command of the 92nd Mechanized Brigade of Ukraine fought on June 9 near the town of Izbytske.
Drueke and Huynh disappeared during the battle and subsequent search missions found no remains. A post on a Russian propaganda channel on Telegram the following day claimed that two Americans had been captured near Kharkiv. “It was absolute chaos,” he told CNN. “There were over a hundred infantrymen advancing on our positions. We had a T72 firing at people from 30, 40 meters away.”
Bunny Drueke, Alexander’s mother, told CNN that “they are believed to be prisoners of war, but that has not been confirmed.”
She said the US Embassy in Ukraine was unable to verify that her son had been captured. “They could not confirm that he is with the Russians. All they can verify is that he is missing at this time,” she said. “They remain in close contact with me and I have every confidence that they are working on the situation.”
Huynh’s fiancee, Joy Black, told CNN: “We don’t want to speculate at this point as to what may have happened. Obviously they are considering multiple scenarios. And one of them is that they may have been captured. But we don’t have absolute confirmation of that at this point.”
A US State Department spokesman said Wednesday that he was “aware of unconfirmed reports of two US citizens being arrested in Ukraine.”
“We are closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities,” the spokesman said. “Due to privacy concerns, we have no further comment.”
The White House said Wednesday they could not confirm the reports, but National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby said, “If it’s true, we will do everything we can to get them home safely.”
Both Bunny Drueke and Black told CNN their last communication with loved ones was on June 8, when the men told them they were going offline for a few days on a mission.
“It was actually a pretty standard conversation: I told him I was going to eat with my friends at our favorite restaurant,” Black said. “And he said, ‘I love you very much.’ And then he said, ‘I won’t be available for two or three days.’ What I found was for the surgery they performed.”
They got engaged in March, just before he left for Ukraine, she said.
“We didn’t know if we wanted to get married or engaged before he left. And we decided to just get engaged so we can get married and enjoy when he comes back and not be separated right after the wedding.”
Now, she said, she is “very fragile.”
“Even though nothing great happened, I’m still very proud of Andy because he’s strong,” she added.
Bunny Drueke said she’s had “ups and downs.”
“I’m trying to stay calm and brave because losing everything isn’t going to help Alex one bit. So I’m just trying to stay calm,” she said.
Drueke and Black later explained to CNN’s Anderson Cooper in a joint interview on AC360 Wednesday night that selflessness and love for the United States fueled their loved ones’ decision to go to Ukraine.
“He’s one of the most loyal Americans you would ever meet, and he took pride in serving his country,” Drueke said of her son. “He said, ‘Mom, I really have to go and help fight in Ukraine, because if Putin is not stopped there, he will not be satisfied, he will be encouraged, and eventually Americans will be threatened.'”
Fighting back tears, Black told Cooper that her fiancé “didn’t go there for selfish reasons or anything. He really had this gnawing at his heart and this great burden to go and serve the people wherever he can.”
“I know it’s not a great situation, but I’m still very proud of him. I just want to see him again for sure,” she said.
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