Two US military veterans from Alabama who traveled to Ukraine to help repel the Russian invasion are missing and fear they were captured by Russian troops or Russian-backed separatists, family members have said .
Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Trinity, Alabama, and Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, have not been heard from for days after being in the Kharkiv area in northeast Ukraine, near the Russian border, say family members.
Going to Ukraine was “not a decision he took lightly,” Huynh’s fiancée, Joy Black, told USA TODAY. “He has such a big heart and a lot of compassion for people in need.”
Huynh told him on June 8 that he would be unavailable for a few days. Black, 21, told USA TODAY she began to worry when she didn’t hear from him. She received a call on Monday from another soldier in her unit, saying the couple had not met at a meeting point during an operation. The caller told them that other soldiers had waited a day and conducted a drone search.
It’s unclear whether they were captured, said Black, whose family has since been in contact with the State Department and a Red Cross group in Ukraine that is also looking for the men.
“We’re just hoping for good news,” Black said.
The State Department said it was monitoring the “unconfirmed” report and was in contact with Ukrainian authorities. White House spokesman John Kirby pointed out that the United States was discouraging Americans from fighting for Ukraine.
“It’s a war zone. It’s a fight,” Kirby said. “If you feel passionate about supporting Ukraine, there are plenty of other ways to do it that are safer and just as effective. Ukraine is not where Americans travel.”
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►Japanese low-cost airline Zipair Tokyo is dropping the “Z” logo on its planes as it has become a pro-invasion symbol in Russia.
►NHL officials will not allow the Stanley Cup to travel to Russia or Belarus this summer, forgoing the unofficial tradition of allowing players from those countries to travel there while spending a day with the cup. Officials have notified the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche of the decision.
►President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on oil producers to cut the cost of gas, telling them in a letter that “in the midst of a war that has driven gas prices up more than $1.70 a gallon, historically high refinery profit margins compound that pain.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi arrived in Ukraine to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy today as they prepare for a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels the next week and a NATO summit on June 29-30 in Madrid, Spain.
Macron tweeted video of devastation in Irpin, a town of 60,000 people about 15 miles west of Kyiv.
“We saw the devastated city and the stigmata of barbarism,” Macron wrote. “And the heroism, too, of the Ukrainians who stopped the Russian army as it descended on Kyiv. Ukraine is resisting. It must be able to win.”
Says Draghi: “They destroyed the nurseries, the playgrounds. And everything will be rebuilt,” Draghi said.
Ukrainian defense chief: Russia expected Kyiv to fall within 12 hours
The Russian military expected Kyiv to surrender within 12 hours of the start of the invasion on February 24, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said. Document found on Russian military officer killed during invasion indicated Russian military objectives, Reznikov told CNN. The Kremlin expected the government to flee the capital within three days, Reznikov said.
“Our partners in the various capitals of the world have also been naïve,” he said. “They told us the invasion was imminent and you would fall. You only have 72 hours. That’s why they didn’t give us heavy weapons.”
Allies pledge more support for Ukraine, US military leaders say
Dozens of countries are joining the United States in strengthening their commitment to support Ukraine’s efforts to fight the Russian invasion, US military leaders said Wednesday after meeting with 50 allies in Brussels.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, joined by Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that the Pentagon would send $1 billion worth of weapons to help Ukraine’s effort to blunt the Russian offensive in the eastern region of Donbass.
The package, the 12th approved by Biden since August, includes long-range rocket-assisted artillery, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and more conventional howitzer guns and ammunition. American allies have also pledged to continue supporting the Ukrainian military.
“The international community does not allow this unambiguous act of aggression by Russia to go unanswered,” Milley said.
The Ukrainians said they needed more long-range and conventional artillery, armored vehicles and anti-aircraft systems, Austin said.
“It’s never enough,” Austin said. “And so we will continue to work hard to move as many capacities as possible, as quickly as possible.”
– Tom Vanden Brook