The US state department has spoken by telephone to an Alabama man who was recently captured in Ukraine while voluntarily helping the country’s armed forces fight Russian invaders, according to his family.
Alexander Drueke told the state department that “he is OK, receiving food and water and has shelter and bedding”, Dianna Shaw, his aunt, said late on Monday.
“We want to believe all these things, and it’s Russia’s responsibility to make sure it’s all true,” Shaw added. “Having Alex call and say these things tells me that Russia knows the world is watching how they treat” him and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, another Alabama man recently captured in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Drueke’s mother thanked Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for hailing her son and Huynh as heroes as well as promising to fight for their release from prison.
“What can I say? They are heroes,” Zelenskiy said in an interview for the Aspen Ideas festival. “We’ll fight for them and get them back, and of course they will come back to their families.”
Lois “Bunny” Drueke, Alexander Drueke’s mother, said it was “very encouraging to hear the Ukrainian government is committed to securing Alex’s and Andy’s release”.
“I want to thank President Zelenskiy for taking their situation seriously,” she said.
The update from Drueke’s family on his plight came a few days after they had said the state department was pressing the Kremlin to reveal his and Huynh’s whereabouts.
A Kremlin spokesperson had also accused Drueke, 40, and Huynh, 27, of being mercenaries, though the men’s family has disputed that claim and said the pair voluntarily signed up to defend Ukraine after Russia’s invasion began there in February.
Russia and its allies in Ukraine have claimed that the treaties collectively known as the Geneva conventions do not apply to captured foreign fighters it considers mercenaries and that they are subject to the death penalty. But because Drueke and Huynh were serving Ukraine’s armed forces, they are entitled to the humane treatment that the Geneva conventions require for prisoners of war, according to international legal experts.
Drueke and Huynh were taken prisoner by Russian forces during a battle north of Kharkiv on 9 June. They were taken to a detention center in the pro-Russia, self-proclaimed people’s republic of Donetsk inside Ukraine, where Russia’s moratorium on the death penalty is not in effect.
In fact, a court in Donetsk has given death sentences to two Britons and a Moroccan national caught fighting for Ukraine.
Huynh had previously served with the US marines.
Drueke is a US army veteran who completed two tours of combat in Iraq – leaving him with post-traumatic stress disorder – before arriving in Ukraine in April, according to his mother.
He had been teaching Ukraine’s soldiers how to use weapons they were receiving from other nations in their fight against Russia.
The men’s capture put the US in a bind because the nation has been avoiding a direct clash with Russia but has been helping Ukraine by pumping billions of dollars into providing weapons and other resources for its defense.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism