The families of two US fighters captured by Putin’s army in Ukraine are begging the Biden administration to negotiate their release as fears grow that they will be handed death sentences like the two Brits captured earlier this year who now await death by firing squad.
Robert Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, were captured by Russian soldiers last week as they defended the city of Kharkiv as part of a ten-man squad along with other French and US volunteer fighters.
Drueke served in the US Army in Iraq whereas Huynh was a Marine for four years. He had never been in active combat before flying to Ukraine in April to volunteer. Both of the US fighters captured yesterday are from Alabama, but it remains unclear if they knew each other before they ventured to the war zone.
Now, the families of the two men are begging the government for help as the situation in Ukraine intensifies; Russia continues to advance through eastern Ukraine, prompting military officials to concede yesterday that the numbers ‘favor’ Putin’s forces so far. The US pledged another $1billion in weapons and aid yesterday amid criticism that the West has not done enough to help Ukrainian President Zelensky or his men.
The war has now raged for over three months and shows no signs of slowing down, with Kharkiv – where the two Americans were captured – consistently under siege.
Yesterday, 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.
Huynh’s fiancée, Joy Black, sobbed in an interview with Good Morning America on Thursday as she pleaded for help.
Robert Drueke, 39, (left) and Andy Huynh, 27 (right), were taken prisoner by Russian forces last week on the outskirts of Kharkiv, according to sources cited by The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday
Huynh’s finacee Joy Black (left) and Drueke’s mother Bunny (right) appeared on Good Morning America on Thursday to beg for their release
‘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.’
Drueke’s mother Bunny said: ‘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.
We will do everything we can to get them safely back home. But this is an important point in time to remind people 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,
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby
A State Department spokesman told DailyMail.com on Wednesday: ‘We once again reiterate U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict and the singling out of U.S. citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials, and that U.S. citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if it is safe to do so using any commercial or other privately available ground transportation options.’
One of the men’s comrades described losing sight of the pair in a battle last week as they defended Kharkiv.
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.
Russian forces claimed that night on the app Telegram to have captured two American soldiers.
The leaders of Romania, Italy, Germany and France joined Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Thursday in a renewed show of support from Europe. Zelensky has repeatedly asked for weapons and money from foreign allies
Russia has been building new military bases while opening gas and oil fields across the Arctic, many of them along the North-East Passage – a valuable trading route that is opening up due to melting ice which Putin hopes he will be able to monetise in the years to come, along with $30trillion in natural resources
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is shown on Thursday at the Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv. He thanked the US for the latest weapons package which is the largest from the Biden administration since the start of the war
The Pentagon said the last packages include two Harpoon coastal defense systems, 18 howitzers, 36,000 rounds for them, artillery rockets, secure radios and money for training.
President Biden on Wednesday pledged an additional $1billion in aid to Ukraine as Russia continued its assault
On Wednesday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley said it was not yet an ‘inevitability’ that Russia would take hold of Eastern Ukraine.
‘There are no inevitabilities in war. War takes many, many turns. So I wouldn’t say it’s an inevitability.’
He conceded that the numbers ‘clearly favor the Russians’.
Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, said last week that the West had only given the country 10 percent of the weapons and support it needs.
Drueke served in Iraq but had struggled to find work or reintegrate into society after returning from war, his mother said.
Huynh served in the Marines for four years, including on a base in Okinawa, Japan, for two years, but he has never been in active combat before. Huynh’s family have not yet commented on his capture.
Before he flew to the region, he told a local media outlet in his hometown in Hartselle, Alabama: ‘I’ve made peace with the decision.
‘I know there’s a potential of me dying. ‘I’m willing to get my life or what I believe is right. For what I’ve been taught is right, through really my eyes, Marine Corps, through God, and really just what is right,’ he said.
He grew up in California but moved to Alabama after leaving the Marines in order to be closer to his fiancée, Joy Black, according to a local media report.
She has not commented on his capture.
Drueke (left) served in Iraq for the US Army. His mother says he suffered PTSD after the war and struggled to find work after leaving the armed forces. Huynh (right) was in the Marines for four years and spent two years on a base in Japan but he had never been in active combat before he joined the effort in Ukraine
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
This photograph taken on June 11, 2022 shows a Ukrainian BM-21 Grad, a multiple rocket launcher, firing near Izyum, south of Kharkiv, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. The men were captured in a battle last week, around the same time
Ukrainian artillerymen prepare to fire a BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher near Izyum, south of Kharkiv, on June 11, 2022 amid Russian invasion of Ukraine
Their captured 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.
Liz Truss, a favorite target of Russian state media, spoke out last week to condemn the sentences which she said had ‘absolutely no legitimacy’ while vowing ‘to do everything we can to support’ the imprisoned pair.
She was mocked on Russian TV by Putin’s associates who said the UK has done nothing to try to intervene in their fate.
The fighting in Ukraine has been relentless since late February when Putin’s army advanced. Above, conflict on February 27 in Kharkiv, where the two US fighters were captured this week