Loved ones of Alabama men captured by Russian forces respond to newly released video
LAWRENCE Co., Ala. (WAFF) - Update: New video has emerged from Russian-controlled media outlets that shows the two men who many fear have been captured by Russian forces.
On the website where the video below can be found are several other videos of Andy Huynh and Drueke. In one video, Huynh of Hartselle can be heard giving a pro-Russian statement saying that Western propaganda led him to Ukraine to help fight.
In one video, Alexander Drueke tells his mother that he loves her and that he will be home soon.
“I play it on loop before I go to bed,” said Alex’s mom, Bunny Drueke. “He sounded strong he sounded like himself.”
Alexander Drueke’s mother spoke on June 20 about her son being detained in Ukraine.
Bunny got a renewed feeling of excitement after seeing the videos.
“I was crying but they were happy tears, said Drueke. “I jumped up and down. You know how bright sunflowers are? I outshone them. It was such a relief because up until then we didn’t know if he was dead or alive.”
Bunny says the video above is the only video she has watched.
She said she and Alex actually talked about what would happen if he got captured. “But Alex had said you know mom if I were to be captured because did discuss it before he left he says if I were to be captured don’t believe anything that I say except I love you, mom.”
Right now, officials are working to verify the videos. They want to know when the videos were filmed and if the veterans meant what they said.
Bunny says she’s taking inspiration from all over, being from Tuscaloosa she’s heeding advice from University of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban himself.
“Coach Saban is always telling the fans to trust the process and that has been something that we are applying to this situation we are trusting the process”
WAFF will not be adding the audio to the video below as we do not know if the message is authentic.
There are several other videos on a Russian State-sponsored media site in which Huynh speaks of Ukrainian corruption and his disagreement with Western propaganda. Huynh also details a story about what unit he was in at the time of his capture.
Huynh’s fiancee, Joy Black, says this is the best sign she’s gotten since last hearing from him.
“A combination of anxiety and a sliver of relief just knowing that he’s okay given that it’s authentic,” Black said. “I guess still lots of worry but definitely lots and lots of hope.”
Black says she doesn’t believe any prisoner would be free to speak their mind authentically. If it turns out he is a captive, she’s just concerned about his safety.
“We could take it as a good sign because if he’s talking then he’s breathing,” Black said. “That means he’s ok and you see him move a little bit it’s different because you’re seeing him there and he’s alright and he’s fine.”
Right now, she’s holding on to the last time she saw him.
“Once I had to leave the airport it all started really hitting me. I just started crying in my brother’s car as we started to drive home,” Black said. “He was texting me every second he could after we dropped him off so I wouldn’t be scared and he could still have contact with me.”
She says he’s a kind, considerate person and his values shined all the way to Ukraine. She says that’s how he met fellow missing veteran, Alexander Drueke.
“I know they thought of each other like brothers,” Black said. “Just knowing that they’re together has definitely been a really big strength for me because he’s not alone, Andy’s not alone, Alex isn’t alone, they have each other and I know how much they mean to each other so that means a lot to me.”
A University of Alabama Huntsville professor spoke with WAFF about the legal ramifications and possible outcomes of the two men being captured. Dr. Noelle Hunter says that since the two men are not with the United States military, prisoner of war laws will be a gray area.
As of Friday afternoon, the United States government has yet to confirm the authenticity of the videos that were released or if they have been captured.
Original: Two U.S. veterans from Alabama who were in Ukraine, helping in the war against Russia haven’t been heard from in days. 27-year-old Andy Huynh from Hartselle and 39-year-old Alexander Drueke from Tuscaloosa have been missing since June 8 and their families are on edge.
According to CNN, Huynh and Drueke were both a military unit fighting under the command of Ukraine’s 92nd mechanized brigade on June 9 near Khariv in Izbytske, a town near the Russian border. The unit’s acting Sargeant said they went missing during the battle and the search missions did not find any remains.
Their families’ biggest fear is that they are captured by Russian forces. They are now clinging to hope.
“He’s just so strong and he has such a big heart,” says Joy Black, Huynh’s fiance. “He didn’t go there for selfish reasons. He just had such a gnawing at his heart and this big burden to serve the people however he can. I know it’s a really difficult situation but I’m still really proud of him and just want to see him back safely.”
“He was the most loyal American anyone could hope to meet and he was proud to serve his country,” said Bunny Drueke, Alexander’s mom. “He said mom I really need to go help fight in Ukraine because if Putin is not stopped there, he’s not going to be satisfied. He will be emboldened and eventually, Americans will be threatened and he needs to be stopped now.”
The women are now leaning on aid from the Ukrainian Embassy and lawmakers.
United States Representative Terri Sewell (AL-07) released the following statement to describe her efforts to find her constituent, Alexander Drueke:
“Earlier this week, the mother of Alexander Drueke, a Tuscaloosa Army Veteran who volunteered to assist the Ukrainian Army in combating Russia, reached out to my office after losing contact with her son. According to his family, they have not heard from Drueke in several days.
“My office has been in contact with the State Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other members of the Alabama Congressional Delegation regarding this urgent matter. We will continue to do everything in our power to assist in locating him and finding answers for his family.
“As we work to determine his whereabouts, please join me in praying for Alexander and his family during this incredibly difficult time.”
On Wednesday, United States Representative Robert Aderholt announced he is helping locate a Huynh. He released the following statement:
“The family of Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Trinity, Alabama in Lawrence County, reached out to my office this week. Huynh, a former U.S. service member, volunteered to go fight with the Ukrainian Army in their current war against Russia.
“According to Huynh’s family, they have not been in contact with him since June 8, 2022, when he was in the Kharkiv area of Ukraine. As you can imagine, his loved ones are very concerned about him. My office has placed inquiries with both the United States Department of State and the Federal Bureau of Investigation trying to get any information possible.
“While my office works to get more details, I would ask everyone to pray for Andy’s safety and to pray for the comfort of his family back in Lawrence County.”
According to our news partner at the Decatur Daily, Huynh was a U.S. Marine for four years. Huynh left Alabama to join Ukrainians in the conflict in April.
Huynh was in his second semester at Calhoun Community College studying robotics when he made the decision to leave.
“My school semester ends the first week of May,” Huynh said in April. “I thought about waiting until after the semester is over (before leaving), but the more I thought about it, it just feels bad to be doing nothing at this point.”
Huynh enlisted in the Marines at 19 years old, achieving the rank of corporal. During his service, Huynh served on a base in Okinawa, Japan, for two years.
Huynh decided to go to Ukraine when he read about Ukrainians at 18 years old being forced to enlist in the military to defend their country.
“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.”
A Senator Tommy Tuberville spokeswoman released the following statement on the senator’s behalf:
“The State Department has been in contact with our office, and we’re closely monitoring the situation.”
Senator Richard Shelby’s office said it is closely working with Huynh’s family.
An online Russian propaganda post claimed Russian forces captures two Americans near Khariv. The Biden Administration could not confirm the reports. If confirmed, they would be the first Americans fighting for Ukraine known to have been captured since the war began Feb. 24.
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