Russia: Geneva Conventions don’t apply to Americans captured in Ukraine

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Two Americans who fought for Ukraine before being captured by Russia will not be granted the protections afforded to prisoners of war by the Geneva Conventions, the Kremlin’s top spokesman said Monday.

Alexander J. Drueke and Andy Tai Huynh were “involved in firing and shelling” of Russian troops and “should be held responsible for those crimes they have committed,” Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, claimed in a Monday interview with NBC News.

The Geneva Conventions protect prisoners of war from torture, summary execution and prosecution for fighting in a war. But Peskov said the Americans “are not the Ukrainian army” and “are not subject to the Geneva Conventions.”

Responding to Peskov, the US State Department said in a statement: “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.”

Peskov accused Drueke, 39, and Huynh, 27 — both US military veterans from Alabama — of being “soldiers of fortune,” or mercenaries, and said that Russian or Russia-aligned authorities will investigate their cases. Although Peskov told NBC that their fate “depends on the investigation,” he also said Drueke and Huynh would “face the same fate” as two British citizens and a Moroccan man sentenced to death earlier this month by Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“Those guys on the battlefield were firing at our military guys. They were endangering their lives,” Peskov said. “There will be a court decision, and there will be a court decision.”

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Before his capture, Drueke told relatives he was teaching Ukrainian troops how to use US weaponry. “He went over there not to fight, but to train,” his mother, Lois Drueke, told The Washington Post.

Huynh volunteered to fight alongside Ukrainian troops, according to Joy Black, who identified herself as Huynh’s fiancee.

On June 8, both men told their relatives that they would be incommunicado for several days as they carried out a mission. Family members later told The Post the pair went missing near the Russian border.

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Drueke, who previously served in the US Army Reserve and deployed to the Middle East, had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since returning home but hoped to find meaning fighting in Ukraine, his mother said.

Huynh served in the US Marine Corps for four years, according to service officials.

It’s unclear how many Americans have signed up to fight for Ukraine. Soon after the conflict started in late February, Ukrainian officials said about 4,000 had expressed interest in doing so.

At least two American citizens have been killed in the fighting: Marine Corps veteran Willy Joseph Cancel, 22, of Tennessee, and Stephen D. Zabielski, 52, of Florida.

Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.

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