Two Alabama men who joined Ukraine’s fight against Russia have gone missing, according to statements made by their families amid fears they might have been captured by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces.
The men missing are Alexander John-Robert Drueke, a 39-year-old from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who served as a U.S. Army staff sergeant, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, a 27-year-old from Hartselle, Alabama, who served as a Marine. Their families said they last heard from them on June 8.
Joy Black, Huynh’s fiance, told CNN the families have no information on what happened or the two men’s whereabouts.
“We don’t want to make assumptions about what might have happened at this time,” Black said. “Obviously they’re looking at several scenarios. And one of them is that they might have been captured. But we don’t have absolute confirmation of that at this time.”
Drueke’s family said in a statement that the two men disappeared when their unit was met with “heavy fire” on June 9 in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine. Subsequent searches for them did not yield any results.
“This could mean they are in hiding or it could mean they have been captured,” said Drueke’s mother, Bunny Drueke, according to The New York Times.
The State Department said Wednesday that officials “are aware of unconfirmed reports of two U.S. citizens captured in Ukraine,” according to CNN.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with Ukrainian authorities,” the spokesperson continued. “Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment.”
If the men were captured by the Russians, they would be the first U.S. prisoners of war in this conflict.
John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said at a White House briefing Wednesday that he was unable to confirm the reports.
“If it’s true, we’ll do everything we can to get them safely back home,” Kirby told reporters.
Kirby said Americans should not be traveling to Ukraine at this time.
“If you feel passionate about supporting Ukraine, there’s any number of other ways to do that that are safer and just as effective,” Kirby said. “Ukraine is not the place for Americans to be traveling.”
Bunny Drueke and Black did a joint interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper Wednesday evening. Drueke spoke about her son’s motivation for going to Ukraine.
“He is one of the most loyal Americans you would ever hope to meet and he was proud to serve his country,” Drueke said. “He said, ‘Mom, I really need to go and help fight in Ukraine because if Putin is not stopped there, he is not going to be satisfied, he will become emboldened and eventually Americans will be threatened.’”
Black said she is proud of her fiance.
“He’s just so strong and he has such a big heart,” Black said. “He didn’t go there for selfish reasons or anything. He really had this gnawing at his heart and this big burden on him to go and serve the people however he can.”
“I know it’s not a great situation, but I’m still very proud of him and I just want to see him back safely,” Black said.
The State Department announced Wednesday the U.S. is sending an additional $1 billion to Ukraine for military assistance. This brings the total amount the U.S. has contributed since Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24 to $5.6 billion.
President Joe Biden said he told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Wednesday the U.S. will also provide $225 million in humanitarian assistance for Ukrainians.
“I reaffirmed my commitment that the United States will stand by Ukraine as it defends its democracy and support its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of unprovoked Russian aggression,” Biden said.