A third American who traveled to Ukraine to fight Russia’s invasion may be missing in action, the State Department said Thursday, a day after families of two American veterans fighting in Ukraine said the two men were missing. together when their platoon was attacked earlier. this month.
The possible third missing person has been identified in recent weeks, a State Department spokesman, Ned Price, said at a briefing. “Unfortunately, we don’t know all the details of that case,” he added.
The families of the two US veterans identified them on Wednesday as Alex Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, and expressed fear that they may have been captured by Russian forces.
As of Thursday afternoon, the United States had not been in contact with Russia about the two men, Price said, confirming previous comments from a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman who were told by Russian state news.
“If we had a credible reason to believe that these individuals were in Russian custody, we would seek it out,” he added, saying State Department officials would contact Russia if they felt it would be “productive.”
The United States has discussed the issue with British partners and the International Committee of the Red Cross, Price said.
The disappearance of volunteer fighters has underscored the potential danger faced by thousands of people from around the world who have traveled to Ukraine to take up arms on behalf of Kyiv. The risk to foreign fighters was highlighted last week after two Britons and a Moroccan were found guilty of being mercenaries and terrorists seeking to overthrow the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic and sentenced to death by a court in the east. Russian-occupied Ukraine. .
International human rights experts and British officials say the men are entitled to be treated as prisoners of war as they were part of Ukraine’s armed forces and are therefore protected by the Geneva Conventions. But Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said on Friday that the Britons sentenced to death were not defined as combatants under international law and, as such, were not entitled to prisoner-of-war status.
If captured, Mr. Drueke, Mr. Huynh and the possibly missing third person would be the first Americans known to have become prisoners of war during the conflict.
The State Department stressed Thursday that Russia must treat anyone captured from the Ukrainian armed forces, including foreign volunteers, as prisoners of war who must be afforded the full protection of the Geneva Conventions.
Asked about the three men sentenced to death last week, Price reiterated the US position that “anyone fighting with Ukraine’s armed forces should be treated as a prisoner of war,” regardless of whether Moscow considers them to be prisoners of war. prisoners of war.