‘I feel guilty… they followed me out here’: American who fought alongside two captured US vets in Ukraine says the group should have focused on humanitarian work instead and reveals his fears they’ll be executed
- Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh were captured by Russian forces on June 11
- The pair were fighting along with other volunteer Western soldiers
- One of their comrades spoke anonymously to CBS on Monday morning to say he would apologize to them if he could get a message to them
- ‘They sort of followed me out here,’ he said, before sharing his regret that the group didn’t focus instead on humanitarian work
- He said he knew that execution was an option – as did the two captured fighters
- The Pentagon says it will do ‘everything’ it can to bring the two men home
- Also missing now is U.S. Marine veteran Ret. Captain Grady Kurpasi, who left for Ukraine in March
An American who traveled to Ukraine along with two US veterans who have now been captured by Russian forces has told of his guilt.
The soldier spoke anonymously to CBS Mornings on Monday as Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh were paraded on Russian state television.
‘They sort of followed me out here. We all agreed there was no leader in the group but I definitely feel a bit guilty, without a doubt.
‘We should have taken a closer look at more humanitarian options or training options.
‘If we did, then they wouldn’t be in the situation they’re in,’ he said.
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The soldier spoke anonymously to CBS Mornings on Monday as Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh were paraded on Russian state television
Alexander Drueke, 39, left, and Andy Huynh, 27, appeared terrified in footage released by Russian forces where they identified themselves and denounced war. They men went missing last week after their platoon in Ukraine was ambushed by Russian soldiers
Drueke, 39, and Huynh, 27, were captured on June 11 during a battle in Kharkiv. They were captured by Russian fighters after disabling a tank with grenades.
The anonymous group-leader who was with them told CBS that he and they knew execution was a possibility.
‘They wound up out here a bit by accident. They wanted to do good and this is sort of, I suppose, the unfortunate result of that.
‘We were warned that execution could be a possibility. I’m very happy that they did not know follow through with that,’ he said.
Drueke served in the US Army in Iraq but Huynh has never been in active combat before.
His fiancée in Alabama said he traveled to the region to help after watching the war unfold from afar.
An undated photo of the two veterans, Drueke, (left) and Huynh (right), was uploaded on the Telegram messaging app on Thursday, a day before the video went up
In the video issued by Russian state media, the men appear beaten and tired.
‘My name is Alexander Drueke, I am against war,’ Drueke said. He then reiterates in Russian, ‘Ya protiv voyny,’ meaning I am against war.
‘Ya protiv voyny,’ Huynh repeats after a quick cut.
Another video shows Drueke addressing his mother, Bunny, as he promises her that he will be back home.
‘Mom, I just wanted to let you know that I’m alive, and I hope to be back home as soon as I can,’ Drueke said. ‘Love you.’
Kurpasi had arrived in the country on March 7 and was in the capital by March 21. He was last heard from around April 23 and 24
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby last week said the US would do ‘everything’ to bring the pair home safely.
He however reiterated that Ukraine was ‘no place for Americans right now’, and he urged anyone considering joining the fight not to go.
The two men’s families are begging the Biden administration to help them.
Bunny Drueke, Alex’s mother, said the latest photos and videos give her hope because her son is still alive.
‘Unmistakably under duress, but thank God they’re alive,’ she said in a previous interview with CBS.
Drueke, who will turn 40 this month, is a former U.S. Army staff sergeant who served two tours in Iraq and who volunteered with the Ukrainian Army.
Huynh, a Marine for four years, had never been in active combat before flying to Ukraine in April to volunteer.
Both of the U.S. fighters are from Alabama, but it remains unclear if they knew each other before they ventured to the war zone.
The pair were part of a ten-man squad defending Kharkiv last week when they were ambushed by Russian soldiers, according to one of their comrades.
Drueke and Huynh disabled a Russian tank with a grenade but were lost in the fog of return fire. By the time it cleared, they had vanished.
‘We were out on a mission and the whole thing went absolutely crazy, with bad intel.
‘We were told the town was clear when it turned out the Russians were already assaulting it.
Both of the U.S. fighters are from Alabama and had disabled a Russian tank with a grenade but were lost in the fog of return fire
‘They came down the road with two T72 tanks and multiple BMP3s (armored fighting vehicles) and about 100 infantry. The only thing that was there was our ten man squad,’ one of their comrades told The Daily Telegraph in an interview on Tuesday.
‘We suspect that they were knocked unconscious by either the anti-tank mine, or by the tank shooting at them, because later search missions found not sign of them, nothing.
‘Afterwards we sent drones up and had a Ukrainian search team on the ground but we found nothing: if they had been hit by the tank shell there would have been remains of their bodies or equipment at the scene,’ he said.
Meanwhile, the United States government has said it has not yet asked Russia about Drueke and Huynh’s whereabouts.
‘As of today, we have not raised this yet with the Russian Federation… (We) haven’t seen anything from the Russians indicating that two such individuals are in their custody,’ U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Wednesday.
Also missing now is U.S. Marine veteran Ret. Captain Grady Kurpasi, who left for Ukraine in March, according to CNN.
Firefighters work at the site of fire after Russian shelling in Mykolaiv in Ukraine this weekend after the latest bombardment
A couple walk past a building destroyed by attacks in Chernihiv, Ukraine, yesterday amid fears of an escalation of the conflict
He has not been heard from since April. No trace of him has been found, sparking fears he may have been killed.
He had been living in Wilmington, North Carolina, before leaving for the eastern European country.
Captain Kurpasi had only recently retired from the U.S. military in November 2021, having served in the US Marine Corps for 20 years.
He decided to volunteer alongside Ukrainians in Ukraine but did not see himself fighting on the frontlines, a family friend said.
‘For him personally, he has a skill set that he feels he can give back,’ George Heath, a family friend of Kurpasi’s, told CNN. ‘He wanted to go and help the Ukrainian people. He wasn’t really planning on fighting.’
Kurpasi had arrived in the country on March 7 and was in the capital by March 21. He was last heard from around April 23 and 24 according to Heath.
By the end of April he was tasked with tasked manning an observation post near Kherson. It was around that time, he stopped communicating with those back in the U.S.
It’s believed the post he was at came under ‘small arms fire’ on April 26.
Kurpasi went to investigate what was happening along with another soldier and left the observation post before radioing to the Ukrainian military to fire back.
‘It was the last time anyone heard from him,’ Heath explained.
‘His goal was not to be in firefights doing stuff like that,’ Heath added. ‘It just ended up being that way in the end.’
Kurpasi’s body has not been found.