Two U.S. military veterans from Alabama who went to Ukraine to help beat back the Russian invasion are missing and feared to have been captured by Russian troops or Russian-backed separatists, their family members said.

Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Trinity, Alabama, and Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, haven’t been heard from for days after being in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, near the Russian border, family members say.

Going to Ukraine was “not a decision he made lightly,” Huynh’s fiancé, Joy Black, told USA TODAY. “He’s got such a big heart and a lot of compassion for people in need.”

Huynh told her on June 8 that he would be unavailable for a few days. Black, 21, told USA TODAY she began to worry when she didn’t heard from him. She received a call on Monday from another soldier in his unit, saying the pair hadn’t met up at a rendezvous point during an operation. The caller told them other soldiers waited a day and conducted a drone search.

Whether they were captured isn’t known, said Black, whose family has since been in touch with the State Department and a Red Cross group in Ukraine that is also searching for the men.

“We’re just hoping for good news,” Black said.

The State Department said it was monitoring the “unconfirmed” report and was in contact with Ukrainian authorities. White House spokesman John Kirby stressed that the U.S. discourages Americans from fighting for Ukraine.

“It is a war zone. It is combat,” Kirby said. “If you feel passionate about supporting Ukraine there is any number of other ways to do that that are safer and just as effective. Ukraine is not the place for Americans to be traveling.”

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Latest developments

►Japanese budget airline Zipair Tokyo is dropping the “Z” logo on its aircraft because it has become a pro-invasion symbol in Russia.

►NHL officials will not allow the Stanley Cup to travel to Russia or Belarus this summer, foregoing the unofficial tradition allowing players from those countries to travel there while spending a day with the cup. Officials informed both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche of the decision.

►President Joe Biden on Wednesday asked oil producers to reduce the cost of gas, telling them in a letter that “amid a war that has raised gasoline prices more than $1.70 per gallon, historically high refinery profit margins are worsening that pain.”

French, German, Italian leaders in Ukraine, see ‘stigmata of barbarism’

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Premier Mario Draghi have arrived in Ukraine to meet with  President Volodymyr Zelenskyy today as they prepare for a European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels next week and a June 29-30 NATO summit in Madrid, Spain.

Macron tweeted video of the devastation in Irpin, a city of 60,000 people about 15 miles west of Kyiv.

“We saw the devastated city and the stigmata of barbarism,” Macron wrote. “And the heroism, too, of the Ukrainians who stopped the Russian army as it descended on Kyiv. Ukraine resists. She must be able to win.”

Said Draghi: “They destroyed the nurseries, the playgrounds. And everything will be rebuilt,” Draghi said.

Ukraine defense chief: Russia expected Kyiv to fall within 12 hours

The Russian military expected Kyiv to surrender within 12 hours of the start of the invasion Feb. 24, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov. A document found on a Russian military officer killed in the invasion stated the Russian military objectives, Reznikov told CNN. The Kremlin expected the government to flee the capital within three days, Reznikov said.

“Our partners in the different capitals of the world also were naive,” he said. “They told us that invasion was imminent, and you will fall. You only have 72 hours. That’s why they didn’t give us heavy weaponry.”

Allies pledging further Ukraine support, US military leaders say

Dozens of countries are joining the U.S. in boosting their commitment to supporting Ukraine’s efforts to fight off the Russian invasion, U.S. military leaders said Wednesday after meeting with 50 allies in Brussels.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, appearing with Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced the Pentagon will send $1 billion in weapons to help Ukraine’s effort to blunt Russia’s offensive in the eastern Donbas region.

The package, the 12th approved by Biden since August, includes long-range, rocket-assisted artillery, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and more conventional howitzer cannons and ammunition. U.S. allies also pledged to continue backing the Ukrainian military.

“The international community is not allowing this unambiguous act of aggression by Russia to go unanswered,” Milley said.

The Ukrainians have said they more need long-range and conventional artillery, armored vehicles and anti-aircraft systems, Austin said.

“It’s never enough,” Austin said. “And so we’re going to continue to work hard to moving as much capability as we can, as fast as we can.”

– Tom Vanden Brook

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