Two Detained Americans Endanger Russian Military, Kremlin Says

  • Kremlin comments acknowledge the men were detained for the first time
  • Peskov denies detained basketball star is being held hostage

June 20 (Reuters) – Two Americans detained in Ukraine while fighting on the Ukrainian side of the war were mercenaries who endangered the lives of Russian soldiers and should face responsibility for their actions, the Kremlin said on Monday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, interviewed by US television network NBC News, also said US basketball star Brittney Griner, detained in Russia for more than two months, was guilty of drug offenses and not a hostage.

Peskov’s comments were the first formal acknowledgment that the two men, identified in U.S. reports as Andy Huynh, 27, of Hartselle, Alabama, and Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, were in custody and under investigation.

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“They are soldiers of fortune. They were involved in illegal activities on the territory of Ukraine. They were involved in shooting and bombing our military personnel. They were putting their lives in danger,” Peskov said.

“And they should be held accountable for the crimes they have committed. Those crimes have to be investigated… The only thing that is clear is that they have committed crimes. They are not in the Ukrainian army. They are not subject to the Geneva Convention.”

Relatives said last week that the two men went to Ukraine as volunteer fighters and disappeared. read more

Russian media last week released footage of them captured fighting for Ukraine.

Peskov did not reveal where the men were being held.

Two Britons and a Moroccan have already been sentenced by a court in the jurisdiction of the separatists in Donetsk for being mercenaries and not being bound by the Geneva Convention governing prisoners of war. read more

Kyiv condemned the court’s ruling as lacking in authority, saying the fighters were members of the Ukrainian armed forces and thus subject to the protections of the Geneva Convention.

Moscow calls its actions a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and its allies in the West say that the fascist accusation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression. read more


Peskov said that Griner, who had come to promote basketball in Russia, was being prosecuted under laws prohibiting the importation of drugs.

“Russia is not the only country in the world that has quite strict laws in that regard … it is persecuted by law. We can’t do anything about it,” Peskov told NBC.

He “strongly disagrees” with any idea that Griner, who arrived in Russia in February, was being held hostage.

“We can’t call her a hostage. Why should we call her a hostage?” he said. “She broke Russian law and now she is being prosecuted. She is not about being a hostage.”

Russian customs officials say vape cartridges containing hash oil were found in Griner’s luggage.

The US State Department determined in May that Griner was wrongfully detained and assigned diplomats to work for her release. Her wife, Cherelle Griner, has said that she is a political pawn.

(This story has been corrected to change the source to NBC news instead of MSNBC in the second and 13th paragraphs)

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Written in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly and Ron Popeski in Winnipeg; edited by Philippa Fletcher

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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