(Washington) Two Americans captured in Ukraine fighting with Kiev forces “endangered” Russian soldiers and “must be held accountable for these crimes,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday in an interview with the American newspaper Channel NBC News.
Posted at 7:31 p.m
According to NBC, this is the Kremlin’s first comment on the case of these two former American soldiers, Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh.
“They are mercenaries and were involved in illegal activities on the territory of Ukraine,” Dmitry Peskov said in English. “They were involved in shots and grenades” by Russian soldiers, “they risked their lives,” he continued.
“They must be held accountable for the crimes they committed,” added the Kremlin spokesman. “These crimes must be investigated.”
When asked about the nature of the crimes the two Americans were accused of, Dmitry Peskov admitted that the characteristics of their crimes were not yet known, but made sure they did not fall under the Geneva Conventions on Prisoners of War.
The two men “do not belong to the Ukrainian army, so they are not subject to the Geneva Conventions,” he argued.
Last week, Russian public television released videos of Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynhe on social media.
In the hands of the “authorities”
The circumstances under which the two former soldiers are being held and who is holding them are unclear. Mr. Peskov merely said that they were in the hands of the “authorities”.
Whether they face the death penalty, the Russian spokesman said: “It depends on the investigation.”
US President Joe Biden said on Friday he did not know the whereabouts of the two men, who had joined other foreign volunteer fighters in addition to the Ukrainian army.
A State Department spokesman confirmed Saturday that he had seen the photos and videos of the two American citizens “allegedly captured by Russian forces in Ukraine.” “We are monitoring the situation closely,” he told the AFP news agency.
The magazine Rolling Stone reported Monday that a second US citizen was killed in fighting in Ukraine after stepping on a mine. An obituary notice for Stephen Zabielski, 52, was posted on a Florida newspaper website in early June, stating that he died on May 15 in the Zaporijjia (East) region.
A 22-year-old former Marine, Willy Joseph Cancel, was killed in Ukraine in April.
Also asked about the detention of American basketball star Brittney Griner in Russia for transporting narcotics, Mr Peskov dismissed the idea that she was being held hostage: “We cannot consider her hostage. Why should we call her a hostage? She broke Russian law and is now being prosecuted.”
Brittney Griner was arrested at Moscow airport in February after “vapes” and “a liquid with a peculiar smell” of cannabis oil were found in her hand luggage, according to Russia’s Federal Customs Service. You face up to 10 years in prison.
In May, Washington said Russia was “unfairly” detaining the basketball player. His case is now on the American side with the United States’ special envoy, who is responsible for the hostage-taking. His detention was extended until July 2 by a court near Moscow.