After Russian state-run television network, RT showed a video on Friday of two U.S. military veterans who went missing last week while fighting in Ukraine, Moscow was quiet in regards to the status of the two men, only stating that they were being held by Russian-proxy separatists. But that has changed.
Russia Has Its Claws Into These Soldiers of Fortune
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov spoke with NBC News in an interview on Monday and stated that the two Americans were “soldiers of fortune” and thus are not protected by the Geneva Conventions as prisoners of war. He added that they should be “held responsible for the crimes they have committed.”
“They’re soldiers of fortune and they were involved in illegal activities on the territory of Ukraine. They were involved in firing and shelling our military personnel. They were endangering their lives,” Peskov said.
“They should be held responsible for those crimes that they have committed.”
When pressed about what crimes the men committed, Peskov didn’t answer but added, “Those crimes have to be investigated.”
State Department Makes Appeal for Geneva Conventions Considerations
The two men were captured while fighting north of Kharkiv. The pair had been missing since June 9.
The U.S. State Department demanded that the Russian authorities respect the Geneva Conventions and international law regarding the treatment of combatants in Ukraine.
“We call on the Russian government — as well as its proxies — to live up to their international obligations in their treatment of any individual, including those captured fighting in Ukraine,” the State Department press office said in a released statement.
Prisoner Videos and Propaganda Released
Russian television paraded the men in front of the camera for propaganda purposes. Alex Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, both from Alabama, were believed to be the first Americans captured by Russian forces since the Russian invasion began in late February. The two were also seen in videos that were later shown on YouTube stating in Russian that they were against the war.
The men were interviewed by someone off-camera, who asked them questions. Drueke then sent a message to his mother, concluding with a wink.
“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. So, love Diesel (his dog, a Mastiff) for me. Love you.”
The case of the Americans being held underlines the plight of others who have flocked to Ukraine to aid in their fight for freedom. Earlier this month two Britons and a Moroccan national were sentenced to death by firing squad for fighting alongside Ukrainian forces against the Russians during the siege of Mariupol. The three men were tried and convicted in a Russian-proxy separatist court in Donetsk, in the embattled Donbas region.
Russians Attempt to Deter Foreign Nationals
These draconian measures are a ploy, but a deadly one that the Russian government is playing by trying to deter foreign nationals from rallying to defend Ukraine while taking up arms against the Russians.
Under the Geneva Conventions, prisoners of war must be treated humanely and protected from prosecution for taking part in the fighting. The only exception is prosecutions on war crimes charges. But according to Peskov, the Americans are not part of the Ukrainian military and therefore are not protected as lawful combatants.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 10 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.