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Nervous wait for families of U.S. vets Andy Huynh and Alexander Drueke, feared captured by Russian forces in Ukraine

Report: U.S. prisoners of war held in Ukraine
Concerns grow over reports of 2 missing Americans in Ukraine 02:49

Kharkiv, Ukraine — The families of two American military veterans say the men are missing and feared captured by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh and Alexander Drueke left their homes in Alabama to serve with Ukraine's army on the battlefield. If they have been captured, they'd be the first American prisoners of war in the conflict sparked by Russia's invasion almost four months ago.

CBS News correspondent Chris Livesay said neither the families nor the U.S. State Department have been able to confirm that the two men were captured. But a post by Russian forces on social media appeared the same day they went missing, claiming two Americans were now their prisoners.

The battles raging in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region have been fierce. Russian President Vladimir Putin's invading forces and their Ukrainian separatist allies have captured a huge swath of ground along the Ukrainian-Russian border.

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The two Americans were volunteering with a unit of other foreign fighters in the Ukrainian army. Video from one of the troop's helmet cameras shows members of the unit shooting and destroy a Russian vehicle. But then, in the fog of battle, the pair went missing.

Huynh served in the U.S. Marines, and Alexander Drueke is a veteran of the war in Iraq.

U.S. military veterans Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh and Alexander Drueke left their homes in Alabama to serve with Ukraine's army on the battlefield. They were reportedly captured by Russian forces during fighting in eastern Ukraine in June 2022. 

Drueke's mother Bunny told "CBS Mornings" that her son "felt very strongly that Putin needed to be stopped, because he said Putin is not going to be satisfied with just part of Ukraine, or even all of Ukraine."

Before he went to join the fight, Huynh was making wedding plans with his fiancée, Joy Black.

"He just had such a burden on his heart to go and help these people in need," she said. "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."

But their whereabouts are unknown, and their future uncertain.

Last week, one Moroccan and two British POWs appeared in a Russian-backed separatist court in Donetsk, one of the two major regions in Ukraine's Donbas. They were sentenced to death by firing squad for fighting alongside the Ukrainians.

Russia Ukraine
Two British citizens Aiden Aslin, left, and Shaun Pinner, right, and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim, center, sit behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk, in the territory of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, controlled by pro-Russian separatists, in eastern Ukraine, June 9, 2022. AP

The American veterans' fate will now likely depend on diplomacy with the highest stakes, at a time when U.S.-Russia relations are on a razor's edge.

"As a mother, you want to keep your children safe," Drueke's mother told CBS News. "As an American, I am so darn proud of him for being willing to risk his safety to help democracy around the world." 

So far, the Kremlin claims it's unaware of the two Americans' capture. The White House has said that, if confirmed, it will do everything it can to bring the two men home.

The question is, what will Moscow ask for in return?

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