A Vietnamese American serving as a volunteer in the Ukrainian army was reportedly captured along with another volunteer soldier by Russian forces in Ukraine last week.
Andy Huynh, 27, and Alexander Drueke, 39, both former U.S. servicemen from Alabama, were taken as prisoners during a firefight in the village of Izbytske outside the city of Kharkiv, soldiers who fought alongside them told The Telegraph.
Huynh, who served in the U.S. Marines, was studying robotics at Calhoun Community College when Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
“I know it wasn’t my problem, but there was that gut feeling that I felt I had to do something,” he said in an earlier interview with his local newspaper The Decatur Daily. “Two weeks after the war began, it kept eating me up inside and it just felt wrong. I was losing sleep … All I could think about was the situation in Ukraine.”
He decided to fly to Eastern Europe in April upon learning that young Ukrainians were being drafted into service.
“Right when they turned 18, they were forced to enlist in the military to defend their homeland,” Huynh said. “Honestly, that broke my heart. I would say that is probably the moment where I decided that I have to do something.”
“He just had such a burden on his heart to go and help these people in need,” she told CBS News. “I’m really hoping that we can get some answers and find out where Andy and Alex are and get them home, because that’s all I want, is [him] to be back, back safely. I just want to know where he is.”
On Monday, Black received a call from Huynh’s comrades, telling her that he had gone missing.
“I was told they had not made their rendezvous point and that some drone searches had been done that had found no trace of them,” she was quoted as saying. “He didn’t tell me anything about the operation he was on last week, as he didn’t want to scare me. I just want to have him back safely.”
The Telegraph’s source, who is also American, said Huynh and Drueke vanished in the fog of battle, leading them to believe that the Russian infantry soldiers have captured them.
The source said they ran into a bigger Russian contingent during a ground battle last Thursday in an area less than five miles from the Russian border.
“We were out on a mission and the whole thing went absolutely crazy, with bad intel,” they said. “We were told the town was clear, when it turned out the Russians were already assaulting it. They came down the road with two T72 tanks and multiple BMP3s [armored fighting vehicles] and about 100 infantry. The only thing that was there was our 10-man squad.”
Huynh was reportedly manning an RPG7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher with Drueke as their group fell back to set up defensive formations.
“Everybody took cover waiting for one of the tanks to hit the anti-tank mine, but Alex and Andy saw a BMP3 coming from another direction through the woods and realized that it would kill most of us. They opened fire and took it out with their first shot.”
A Russian tank spotted the pair and fired a shot in their direction, which possibly knocked them out.
“It was all very chaotic, but we suspect that they were knocked unconscious by either the blast from the tank shooting at them, or from the anti-tank mine blowing up, because later search missions found not a sign of them.”
Search efforts by a Ukrainian rescue team aided by drones failed to find any trace of the two.
“We found nothing,” they told the Telegraph. “If they had been hit by the tank shell, there would have been remains of their bodies or equipment at the scene.”
Later that night, a Russian Telegram channel posted a message claiming that two American servicemen were taken as prisoners of war near Kharkiv.
“Z group have scored some success in the Kharkiv destination for the last two days. We have taken hostage 10-20 Ukrainian soldiers and also today two American mercenaries,” the message read.
The source said he decided to speak out “because I want it in the public domain that they are missing so that the Russian high command is made aware too. That hopefully reduces the chances of them being quietly executed by whoever is holding them further down the chain.”
As of this writing, the Kremlin has yet to publicly confirm the two Americans’ capture.
Meanwhile, the White House has stated that it will do everything it can to bring the two men home if the reports are officially confirmed.