US nationals Alexander John Robert Drake, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Tay Ngoc Huen, 27, of Hartselle, Alabama, were interviewed by Russia’s RT at a detention center in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) on Friday, According to a report published on RT.
On Friday, short videos appeared on pro-Russian channels and on social media showing the arrested men in an unknown location. At the time it was not clear who was holding them.
A State Department spokesperson told CNN on Friday that they had “viewed photos and videos of these two US citizens who were reportedly captured by Russian military forces in Ukraine” and were “closely monitoring the situation.”
“We are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the families themselves,” they added. “Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment on these cases.”
Separately, a 50-minute edited video was posted on Saturday of Druk and Hinh giving an interview to HelmCast, a Serbian nationalist, pro-Russian YouTube channel.
In the interview, a man behind the camera can be heard revealing where they met when he said, “Here in Donetsk” during a question to Drueke.
Drueke was also asked in the interview if he had any objections to how he had been treated since his arrest and revealed that he had been beaten.
CNN chooses not to broadcast the videos of the American detainees because they show the men speaking under duress.
Drueke and Huynh’s detention site is a worrying development. Russia has a moratorium on the death penalty, while Donetsk uses death squads to execute convicted prisoners, according to Russian state media RIA Novosti.
Hopes that a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists would release any foreign fighters held in Donetsk appear to have been dashed after self-proclaimed president of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denis Pushlin, said such exchanges were out of the question.
“The exchange of British men sentenced to death in the DRC is not under discussion, and there are no grounds for pardoning them,” Pushlin told the independent Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta on Thursday.
The Donetsk People’s Republic did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the detention of Druki and Huynh.
The ex-soldier describes the battle
Speaking exclusively to CNN’s Sam Kiley, a former US soldier fighting with Ukrainian forces recounted the battle he witnessed on June 9, when Huynh and Drueke were captured.
The man, who asked to be identified with the code name “Pep,” said his team was sent on a mission east of Kharkiv, where a large-scale Russian armored attack was underway.
Huynh and Drueke fired an RPG at a BMP — an infantry fighting vehicle — that was coming through the woods and destroyed it, according to Pep. But the team was forced to withdraw quickly as more than 100 Russian infantry began to advance and American fighters found themselves in a village they had previously believed was in the hands of the Ukrainians.
When asked what happened to Huynh and Drwick, he said, “We suspect they were either driven out by a T-72 tank shooting at them or by a mine explosion. This is just speculation, we don’t really know what it is. It happened to them.”
“There were over a hundred foot soldiers advancing on our positions. We had T-72 fire on people from 30 or 40 meters away,” he said.
A picture of the two men appeared on Thursday with their hands tied behind them and in the back of a Russian truck. A Russian blogger posted the undated photo on Telegram on Thursday. CNN was unable to independently verify the date the photo was taken.
The third missing American
George Heath, a friend of the Corbasi’s family, told CNN that the last time he heard Hesun Kim and other close friends of Corbasi was between April 23 and 24. Corbasi served in the United States Marine Corps for 20 years, retiring in November 2021. Heath said he chose to volunteer alongside the Ukrainians in Ukraine, but initially did not envision himself fighting on the front lines of the war.
“We don’t know where they are, but I want to repeat: Americans shouldn’t go to Ukraine right now,” Biden said in response to a question from CNN’s MJ Lee at the White House.
CNN’s Sarah Al-Sirjani, Maya-Lisa Ellinger, Maya Kaufman, Michael Conti, Jennifer Hansler, Kate Sullivan and Mick Craver contributed to this report.
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