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Two U.S. military veterans who went missing in Ukraine last week were shown on a Russian news broadcast telling their loved ones Russian separatists had captured them.
The footage on the Russian news outlet RT’s broadcast Friday was the first time the missing men, Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, both from Alabama, were seen since they went missing on June 9.
“Mom, I just want to let you know that I’m alive and I hope to be back home as soon as I can be,” Drueke said in the footage.
During the video, he is seen providing his mother with a quick wink and telling her to take care of his dog. “So, love Diesel for me. Love you,” he added.
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Dianna Shaw, Drueke’s aunt, said the video recording included a secret word and gesture they had discussed during his previous tours in Iraq, verifying his identity and letting her know he was OK.
RT broadcasted the report in English, saying the two Americans were separated from their group when they wound up approaching a Russian patrol and surrendered. Russian-backed separatist forces are holding the men, the report added.
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Drueke previously served in the U.S. Army, which included two tours to Iraq. Huynh previously served in the U.S. Marines.
Neither the U.S. nor the Russian government has confirmed that American men are being held.
Previously, the U.S. government said any Americans captured in Ukraine should be considered prisoners of war and thus protected as combatants under the Genera Conventions. Russian military officials, however, said international fighters would be considered mercenaries and would not be afforded those protections.
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On Friday, President Joe Biden was asked by a reporter about the missing Americans.
“I don’t know where they are and I want to be clear: Americans should not be going to Ukraine,” the president answered. “I’ll say it again, Americans should not be going to Ukraine.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.