WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The Kremlin said on Tuesday that the U.S. citizens captured in Ukraine were subject to court decisions.
- Putin’s spokesman said they are not ruling out that they could face the death penalty.
- The families of Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh reported them missing last week.
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said he wouldn’t guarantee that two American captured in Ukraine won’t face the death penalty.
“It depends on the investigation,” Dmitry Peskov told NBC News senior international correspondent Keir Simmons when he was asked whether Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh ,27, would “face the same fate” as two British citizens and a Moroccan who were sentenced to death by Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine this month.
Drueke and Huynh were reported missing last week.
Simmons interviewed Peskov in Moscow, where the government is cracking down on journalists and limiting what reporters can say under threat of imprisonment.
Peskov said Drueke and Huynh were “involved in illegal activities” in Ukraine, firing on Russian troops.
“Those guys on the battlefield were firing at our military guys. They were endangering their lives,” Peskov said. “There will be a court, and there will be a court decision.”
He added that Drueke and Huynh, whom he called “soldiers of fortune,” should be punished.
In March, the Ukrainian government said about 20,000 people from 52 countries volunteered to fight with the International Legion of Ukraine. It isn’t determined how many are in Ukraine now.
Damien Magrou, a spokesman for the foreign legion, said he couldn’t “confirm or deny” whether the two Americans were with the force.
Peskov also didn’t say whether the men were being held in Russia or by pro-Russian forces fighting the Ukrainians in the east of the country. He added that they weren’t likely to be covered by the Geneva Conventions that afford protections to prisoners of war because they weren’t part of Ukraine’s regular army.
Drueke’s mother said in an interview last week that her son wasn’t in Ukraine to fight and that he was there in more of an advisory capacity, while Huynh’s fiancée said they had talked about his going to fight before they got engaged in late March.
On Friday, videos of Huynh and Drueke were broadcast by RT, a Russian state-controlled international television network, which reported that the two were being held captive by separatists.
Peskov said he had no information about Grady Kurpasi, the third former U.S. service member who has also been reported missing in Ukraine by his family.
Peskov also denied that American WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was detained at a Russian airport in February after authorities there said she was carrying vape cartridges containing hashish oil, was being held as a “hostage.”