Two U.S. veterans from Alabama who were in Ukraine assisting in the war against Russia haven't been heard from in days and are missing, members of the state's congressional delegation said Wednesday.
Relatives of Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Trinity and Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa have been in contact with both Senate and House offices seeking information about the men's whereabouts, press aides said.
Rep. Robert Aderholt said Huynh had volunteered to go fight with the Ukrainian army against Russia, but relatives haven't heard from him since June 8, when he was in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, which is near the Russian border. Huynh and Drueke were together, an aide to Aderholt said.
“As you can imagine, his loved ones are very concerned about him,” Aderholt said in a statement. “My office has placed inquiries with both the United States Department of State and the Federal Bureau of Investigation trying to get any information possible.”
Rep. Terri Sewell said Drueke's mother reached out to her office earlier this week after she lost contact with her son.
The U.S. State Department said it was looking into reports that Russian or Russian-backed separatist forces in Ukraine had 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 Feb. 24.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with Ukrainian authorities,” the department said in a statement emailed to reporters. It declined further comment, citing privacy considerations.
John Kirby, a national security spokesman at the White House, said Wednesday that the administration wasn’t able to confirm the reports about missing Americans.
“We’ll do the best we can to monitor this and see what we can learn about it,” he said.
However, he reiterated his warnings against Americans going to Ukraine.
“Ukraine is not the place for Americans to be traveling,” he said. “If you feel passionate about supporting Ukraine, there’s any number of ways to do that that that are safer and just as effective.”
A court in Donetsk, under separatist control, sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan man to death last week. The Britons and Moroccan were accused of being mercenaries and seeking the violent overthrow of the separatist government in the Donetsk region. The Russian military has said it considers foreigners fighting with Ukraine to be mercenaries and claims they are not protected as combatants under the Geneva Convention.
Huynh's fiancee, Joy Black, posted publicly on Facebook that his family was in contact with the Drueke family and government officials, and that nothing had been confirmed other than that the two were missing.
“Please keep Andy, and Alex, and all of their loved ones in prayer. We just want them to come home,” she wrote.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.