Alabama veterans Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh (L) and Alexander Drueke (R) are reportedly being held by Russian forces after being captured in Ukraine. (Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily via AP; Lois “Bunny” Brueke via AP.)
Two Alabama veterans captured while fighting in Ukraine was in the country illegally and could face the death penalty, Russian officials say.
Speaking to NBC News, Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the fate of Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Trinity, and Army Sgt. Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, will be decided by a Russian court.
They were “involved in illegal activities... (and) should be punished,” he told NBC News, adding they weren’t likely to be protected by the Geneva Conventions afforded prisoners of war because they weren’t part of Ukraine’s regular army.
Russia has sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan to death after they were captured in Ukraine, saying they were mercenaries and not provided protection as prisoners of war.
When asked if the Alabama men faced the same fate, Petrov told NBC News he “cannot guarantee anything. It depends on the investigation.”
The U.S. State Department called on the Russian government to “live up to their international obligations in their treatment of any individual, including those captured fighting in Ukraine.”
Huynh and Drueke traveled to the war-torn country in April and went missing around June 8 in the Kharkiv area of Ukraine. Later reports indicated the men were taken prisoner during a fight with Russian armored forces and a video on Russian TV appears to show the men tied in the back of a truck.
Huynh and Drueke are believed to be the first Americans captured by Russian forces since the Ukraine invasion began in late February.