On Saturday, the State Department said it had seen photos and videos that appeared to show two Americans who were captured in Ukraine, although it refused to comment on the authenticity of the photos or the condition of the two men.
A State Department spokesman said US officials had been in contact with the two men’s families, Ukrainian authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Red Cross declined to comment on the case.
The disappearance of the two men, Alex Drake, 39, and Andy Tay Ngoc Hoen, 27, were reported last week by their families and described by the Foreign Ministry on Saturday as “captured by Russian military forces in Ukraine”. Both are American veterans who volunteered to fight in Ukraine.
The Russian government has not publicly commented on the reports.
On Friday, short videos were posted on YouTube purporting to show the two men saying in Russian, “I am against war.” It was not clear when the videos were recorded or by whom.
Then the Russian state channel RT said it had interviewed the men, claiming that they had surrendered to Russian forces and were in a detention center controlled by Russian-backed forces. Watermarked videos on RT, circulating on social media, showed the men, separately, talking to someone off-camera about their experiences.
Drake’s mother, Louise Drake, said on Saturday that she and other members of her family celebrated after watching the first videos, although they were only a few seconds short.
“I’ve seen the people from yesterday over and over,” she said. “It’s great to see him and see him alive.”
Diana Williams, his aunt, said the family was confident it was Mr. Drake in the videos, due to his “body language, facial expressions, gestures, and most importantly, his tender voice”. However, the State Department has not yet told the family whether officials believe the videos are authentic.
Ms. Williams said Mr. Drake, a former US Army sergeant who served two tours in Iraq, had previously warned his mother that if he was ever captured, he might be asked to read from a script. She added that the family understood that everything he said should be taken into account.
“After the great relief we felt watching the videos, we are also concerned because we now know he is in a captive situation,” she said.
Huynh’s fiancée, Darla Black, mother of Joy Black, said she also felt relieved watching the videos.
It is a comfort to hear his voice, said the elderly Mrs. Black. “It’s not a situation we want him to be in, but as long as he’s talking, he’s breathing.”
She said the inflection and cadence of the man’s voice in the video was familiar, although they weren’t sure it was Mr. Huynh.
Ms. Black said the videos reminded her of recordings of Vietnamese prisoners of war. “Everyone knows that prisoners are not free to express what they think,” she said.
The State Department declined to comment in detail on the case, citing privacy concerns. But he repeated President Biden’s warning on Friday, when he told reporters, “I want to repeat: Americans should not go to Ukraine now.”
He said the administration didn’t know where the men were.
Last week, a court in eastern Ukraine occupied by Russia Three foreign fighters were sentenced to deathAccusing men from Britain and Morocco of mercenaries. Western countries condemned the ruling, and legal experts said the trial was apparently calculated as a warning to foreign volunteers that if captured, they could be denied the protections afforded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.
conventions, that govern the law of war To which Russia has signed, it specifies that captured volunteer fighters can also be considered prisoners of war. The basic definition of a mercenary under international law is a person who primarily fights for financial gain and is paid significantly more than the local armed forces.