Russian state television broadcasts videos of two Americans missing in Ukraine

Smoke and dirt rise from the city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region on Friday as the Russian-Ukrainian war enters its 114th day – Copyright AFP ARIS MESSINIS

A Russian state television channel posted videos on social media of two Americans who went missing last week while fighting alongside the Ukrainian military, saying they had been captured by Russian forces.

US President Joe Biden had said earlier on Friday that he did not know the whereabouts of Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, two US military veterans whose relatives had lost contact with the couple.

The missing Americans – including a third identified as a former US Marine captain – are believed to be among an unknown number of mostly military veterans who have joined other foreigners to volunteer alongside Ukrainian troops.

On Friday evening, Russian journalist Roman Kosarev – who works with state broadcaster RT – posted a video on the Telegram messaging platform of Drueke speaking into the camera.

“Mom, I just want to let you know I’m alive and hope to be home as soon as possible,” said Drueke, who was seated in what appeared to be an office and dressed in military fatigues.

“I love Diesel for me, I love you,” he said, concluding his brief video with a quick wink. Reports in the United States say that Diesel was Drueke’s dog.

RT’s official Telegram channel also published an interview with Huynh, in which he said the duo had been “engaged in fighting with Russian troops” near Ukraine’s Kharkiv region.

After the couple retreated and hid for hours, they surrendered to Russian troops, Huynh said.

The couple were also filmed in separate RT videos – directly facing an angled camera from above – saying “I am against the war”, in bad Russian.

It was not entirely clear what circumstances the two men were speaking under, or who was specifically holding them back.

A spokesperson for the US State Department confirmed on Saturday that US authorities had seen the photos and videos of the two US citizens “who were allegedly captured by Russian military forces in Ukraine”.

“We are closing monitoring of the situation and our thoughts are with their families during this difficult time,” the spokesperson told AFP.

During a White House briefing on Friday, Biden urged American citizens not to travel to Ukraine.

“Americans should not go to Ukraine now. I repeat: Americans should not go to Ukraine,” he said.

Russian proxy authorities in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, a Moscow-controlled strip of eastern Ukraine, have sentenced to death two Britons and a Moroccan man captured earlier in the fighting.

John C. Dent