Americans Drueke and Huynh are missing in Ukraine and fear capture
The men are Alexander John-Robert Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Hartselle, Alabama.
“There are reports of an additional American whose whereabouts are unknown. I cannot speak to the specifics of this case. Unfortunately, we do not know the full details of this case,” the carrier said. State Department spokesman Ned Price during a press briefing on Thursday.
Subsequent search missions found no remains of the missing pair. A message on a Russian propaganda channel on Telegram the following day claimed that two Americans had been captured near Kharkiv. “It was absolute chaos,” he told CNN. “There were a hundred and more infantry advancing on our positions. We had a T72 firing at people 30, 40 yards away.”
Bunny Drueke, Alexander’s mother, told CNN that “they are presumed to be prisoners of war, but this has not been confirmed.”
She said the US Embassy in Ukraine was unable to verify whether her son had been captured. “They have not been able to verify that he is with the Russians. All they can verify is that he is missing at this point,” she said. “They remain in close contact with me and I am confident they are working on the situation.”
Huynh’s fiancé, Joy Black, told CNN, “We don’t want to make assumptions about what could have happened at that time. Obviously, they’re looking at multiple scenarios. And one of them is that they could have been captured. But we don’t have absolute confirmation of that at this time.”
Price, the State Department spokesman, said Thursday his department is in contact with their families but still could not confirm their capture.
The United States is not in contact with Russia about their case, he said, because it does not yet have a “credible reason” to believe that the Russians captured them, and also because Russia did not claim to have captured them.
“If we feel that such outreach through our embassy in Moscow or otherwise would be productive in terms of uncovering more information about the whereabouts of these people, we will not hesitate to do so,” Price said. .
Both Bunny Drueke and Black told CNN their last communication with loved ones was on June 8, when the men told them they would be going offline for a few days on a mission.
“It was a pretty normal conversation actually: I told him I was getting food with my friends at our favorite restaurant,” Black said. “And he said, ‘I love you very much. And then he said, ‘I’ll be unavailable for two to three days.’ What I found out was for the operation they were doing.”
They got engaged in March, shortly before he left for Ukraine, she said.
“We didn’t know if we wanted to get married or engaged before he left. And we decided to get engaged so that when he came back, we could get married and enjoy it without being separated right after we got married.”
Now, she says, she is “very fragile”.
“Even though not a lot has happened, I’m still very proud of Andy for his strength,” she added.
Bunny Drueke said she had “ups and downs”.
“I’m trying to stay calm and brave because losing everything won’t help Alex at all. So I’m just trying to stay calm,” she said.
Drueke and Black later explained to CNN’s Anderson Cooper in a joint interview on “AC360” Wednesday night that selflessness and love for the United States fueled their loved ones’ decision to go to Ukraine.
“He’s one of the most loyal Americans you could ever hope to meet and he was proud to serve his country,” Drueke said of his son. “He said, ‘Mom, I really have to go and help fight in Ukraine because if Putin isn’t stopped there, he won’t be satisfied, he’ll get emboldened, and the Americans will end up being threatened. “”
Fighting back tears, Black told Cooper that her fiancé “didn’t go there for selfish reasons or anything. He really had this heartache and this heavy burden for him to go and serve people like he can.”
“I know it’s not a good situation, but I’m still very proud of him. I just want to see him safely again,” she said.
This story has been updated with additional reports.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Kaitlan Collins, Michael Conte and Devan Cole contributed reporting from Washington, DC.