A photo of two Americans who went missing last week while fighting Kremlin forces in the Ukraine has emerged depicting them in the back of a Russian military truck.
The image shows U.S. Army veteran Alexander Drueke, 39, and Marine Andy Huynh, 27, loaded on a truck with their hands behind their backs, suggesting that they were tied up and captured by Russians who ambushed their platoon on June 9.
The U.S. State Department said it was working to verify the undated photo that was posted by a Russian blogger on the Telegram messaging app on Thursday, CNN reported.
Drueke’s mother, Bunny, who is urging the government to release her son, told CNN that the photo has been circulated around Russian media.
‘They’re working hard to verify it,’ she said of the State Department. ‘We’re very hopeful.’
The picture began circulating as the department verified that a third American, U.S. Marine veteran Ret. Captain Grady Kurpasi has been missing since April.
An undated photo of the two veterans, Alexander Drueke, 39, (left) and Andy Huynh, 27 (right), was uploaded on the Telegram messaging app on Thursday
Drueke, (left) and Huynh (right), are feared to have been taken prisoner by Russian forces last week on the outskirts of Kharkiv after their unit was ambushed by Russian soldiers
Drueke, who is due to turn 40 this month, was a former U.S. Army staff sergeant who served two tours in Iraq and who volunteered with the Ukrainian Army.
Huynh, a Marine for four years, had never been in active combat before flying to Ukraine in April to volunteer.
Both of the U.S. fighters are from Alabama, but it remains unclear if they knew each other before they ventured to the war zone.
The pair were part of a ten-man squad defending Kharkiv last week when they were ambushed by Russian soldiers, according to one of their comrades.
Drueke and Huynh disabled a Russian tank with a grenade but were lost in the fog of return fire. By the time it cleared, they had vanished.
‘We were out on a mission and the whole thing went absolutely crazy, with bad intel. We were told the town was clear when it turned out the Russians were already assaulting it.
‘They came down the road with two T72 tanks and multiple BMP3s (armored fighting vehicles) and about 100 infantry. The only thing that was there was our ten man squad,’ one of their comrades told The Daily Telegraph in an interview on Tuesday.
‘We suspect that they were knocked unconscious by either the anti-tank mine, or by the tank shooting at them, because later search missions found not sign of them, nothing.
‘Afterwards we sent drones up and had a Ukrainian search team on the ground but we found nothing: if they had been hit by the tank shell there would have been remains of their bodies or equipment at the scene,’ he said.
Meanwhile, the United States government has said it has not yet asked Russia about Drueke and Huynh’s whereabouts.
‘As of today, we have not raised this yet with the Russian Federation… (We) haven’t seen anything from the Russians indicating that two such individuals are in their custody,’ U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Wednesday.
Both of the U.S. fighters are from Alabama and had disabled a Russian tank with a grenade but were lost in the fog of return fire
Huynh’s finacee Joy Black (left) and Drueke’s mother Bunny (right) appeared on Good Morning America on Thursday to beg for their release
The news that the drone didn’t find bodies came as a relief to Bunny, who told Fox News, ‘This could mean they are in hiding or it could mean they have been captured.’
She said that she last spoke to her son on June 5 and had received a text message a few days later on June 9.
‘Going dark for almost all of tomorrow. Possibly the next day too,’ the message of his last text read.
Five days later, on June 13, she received a text from another member of her son’s platoon informing her of his disappearance.
Huynh’s fiancée, Joy Black, sobbed in an interview with Good Morning America on Thursday as she pleaded for help.
‘We just really want him back. He’s got such a big heart.
‘He knew this wasn’t an easy thing but this was the right thing. Even though not great things have happened, I’m still really, really proud of him.’
Speaking about her son, Bunny added: ‘He wanted to go over and help train Ukrainian soldiers and show them how to use the equipment that the US has been sending over there for them.’
She said he was driven by the fear that Putin would not stop at Ukraine, and that he would try to invade the rest of Europe.
U.S. Marine veteran Ret. Captain Grady Kurpasi, right, left for Ukraine in March. He had retired in November 2021 and was staffing a post which came under fire in April. His body has not been found
Kurpasi had arrived in the country on March 7 and was in the capital by March 21. He was last heard from around April 23 and 24
Also missing now is U.S. Marine veteran Ret. Captain Grady Kurpasi, who left for Ukraine in March, according to CNN.
He has not been heard from since April. No trace of him has been found, sparking fears he may have been killed.
He had been living in Wilmington, North Carolina, before leaving for the eastern European country.
Captain Kurpasi had only recently retired from the U.S. military in November 2021, having served in the US Marine Corps for 20 years.
He decided to volunteer alongside Ukrainians in Ukraine but did not see himself fighting on the frontlines, a family friend said.
‘For him personally, he has a skill set that he feels he can give back,’ George Heath told CNN. He wanted to go and help the Ukrainian people. He wasn’t really planning on fighting.’
Kurpasi had arrived in the country on March 7 and was in the capital by March 21. He was last heard from around April 23 and 24 according to Heath.
By the end of April he was tasked with tasked manning an observation post near Kherson. It was around that time, he stopped communicating with those back in the U.S.
It’s believed the post he was at came under ‘small arms fire’ on April 26.
Kurpasi went to investigate what was happening along with another soldier and left the observation post before radioing to the Ukrainian military to fire back.
‘It was the last time anyone heard from him,’ Heath explained.
‘His goal was not to be in firefights doing stuff like that,’ Heath added. ‘It just ended up being that way in the end.’
Kurpasi’s body has not been found.
Everyone was accounted for in the platoon the pair were fighting with except Dureke and Huynh. There appeared to be no sign of either following surveys conducted by drone.
British war prisoners Aiden Aslin (left) and Shaun Pinner (second left) were sentenced to death penalty by Donetsk court on June 9, accused of being foreign mercenaries. They were captured along with a Moroccan fighter (right) in April
On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the administration would do ‘everything we can’ to bring them ‘safely home’ however he said their capture should serve as a reminder to Americans not to travel to the region.
‘If true, we will do everything we can to get them safely back home. But this is an important point in time to remind that we discourage Americans from going to Ukraine and fighting. It is a warzone. It is combat. If you feel passionate about supporting Ukraine there’s any number of other ways to do that that are safer.
‘Ukraine is not the place for Americans right now,’ Kirby said at a White House press briefing.
It comes after two Brits were taken prisoner by Putin’s army. Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin have been handed death sentences by a proxy court in eastern Ukraine.
They were captured in April. Now, the pair have been sentenced to death by firing squad.
British officials say they are doing everything they can to get the pair out of Russian custody before they are slaughtered.