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.

The U.S. State Department is looking into reports that 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.

Huynh’s fiancé, Joy Black, said Huynh told her on June 8 that he would be unavailable for a few days. On Monday she was informed that Huynh and Drueke missed their rendezvous and they were in an area that was hit hard by Russian aerial assaults.

“He went over there to volunteer because he really cares,” Black told WAAY-TV in Alabama. “This had been really weighing as a heavy burden on his heart for quite a while before he left. He wanted to go and do what was right.”

White House spokesman John Kirby said 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.

►French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Premier Mario Draghi have arrived in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv 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.

►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.”

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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