Two American fighters who were fighting alongside Ukrainian forces went missing north of Kharkiv, Ukraine on Thursday, June 9. The two US nationals are feared to have been captured by Russian forces, according to their families and a fellow fighter.
The men are Alexander John-Robert Drueke, 39, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, both from Alabama.
On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN he knew nothing about the two fighters.
He said on a media call: “No, we don’t know.”
A photo appeared on a Russian blogger’s Telegram channel on Thursday that appeared to show the two Americans in the back of a military truck.
The image apparently confirmed that the couple had been captured by Russian forces.
Both men are pictured staring at the camera with their hands behind their backs as if tied together.
It was posted on Telegram by a Russian blogger called The V, whose full name is Timofey Vasilyev.
It was not verified when the photo was taken.
According to Alexander Drueke’s mother, Bunny Drueke, the US State Department said on Thursday that there is potential evidence that Mr Drueke was captured, but it cannot verify the photo at this time.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday that the department is in contact with their families but still could not confirm that they had been captured.
He said the United States was not in contact with Russia about their case because it did not yet have a “credible reason” to believe the Russians had captured them and because the Kremlin did not did not claim to have captured them.
Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, Mr Price said: ‘While we feel that such outreach through our embassy in Moscow or otherwise would be productive in terms of finding more information about the fate of these people, we will not hesitate to do this.”
The White House said it was “working very hard to find out more” about unverified reports of Americans missing or captured in Ukraine.
A group of former US and French servicemen tweeted on Wednesday that two Americans fighting with them were captured a week ago.
If confirmed, the pair would be the first Americans fighting for Ukraine to be captured since the war began in February.
Mr. Huynh and Mr. Drueke, who are both military veterans, came from Alabama to join a unit of Ukrainian volunteers, according to US media.
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The pair went missing during a battle near the town of Izbytske on June 9, according to a man who was acting as the team’s sergeant.
The man, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, provided CNN with photos of the two men’s passports and their Ukraine entry stamps.
He said: “It was absolute chaos. There were about a hundred infantry advancing on our positions. We had a T72 shooting at people from 30, 40 meters away.
A message on a Russian propaganda channel on Telegram on June 10 claimed that the two American citizens had been captured near Kharkiv.
Subsequent search missions have failed to find evidence of the missing men.
The US State Department also said on Thursday it was aware of reports that a third American who had traveled to Ukraine to fight against Russia had disappeared in the “last few weeks”.
Speaking at Thursday’s briefing, Mr Price said: “There is information about one additional American whose whereabouts are unknown.
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“I cannot speak to the details of this case. Unfortunately, we do not know all the details of this case.
Bunny Drueke said her son was a “suspected prisoner of war, but this has not been confirmed”.
Mr Drueke’s mother said the US Embassy in Ukraine had been unable to verify whether her son had been captured.
She said: “They have not been able to verify that he is with the Russians. All they can verify is that he’s missing at this point.
“They remain in close contact with me and I am confident they are working on the situation.”
Mr Huynh’s fiancée, Joy Black, told CNN: “We don’t want to speculate on what might have happened at that time.
“Obviously, they are considering several scenarios. And one of them is that they could have been captured. But we don’t have absolute confirmation of that yet.
Both women said the last time they spoke with loved ones was on June 8, when the men told them they would go offline for a mission.