Kremlin comments on captured US mercenaries
The two American citizens captured in the Donbass are “soldiers of fortune” and their fate will be decided by the courts, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told NBC News in an interview on Monday. Peskov also said that jailed WNBA star Brittney Griner cannot be considered a “hostage.”
The conflict over Ukraine will affect relations between Russia and the West for a long time, Peskov explained, adding, “We will never trust [the] West anymore.”
US military veterans Alexander Drueke (39) and Andy Huynh (27) went missing last week. RT confirmed on Friday that they had been captured in Donbass and were being held in a detention center somewhere in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). They are the first Americans to be captured in the course of the conflict in Ukraine, not long after a Donetsk court sentenced three foreign fighters to death for their role in the fighting.
Asked about Drueke and Huynh, Peskov said their fate would “depend on the investigation.” He called them “soldiers of fortune” who were involved in “illegal activities” and fired on Russian troops, for which they should be punished.
“There will be a court, and there will be a court decision,” Peskov told NBC News’ Keir Simmons.
On June 9, a court in Donetsk found three foreign fighters guilty of acting as mercenaries and attempting to seize power by force. British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, as well as Moroccan national Saadun Ibrahim, were sentenced to death. The trio denied being mercenaries and are appealing the verdict.
While Aslin, Pinner, and Ibrahim had been captured by DPR troops near Mariupol, Drueke and Huynh told RT they had surrendered to a Russian patrol. Both the Donbass republics and Russia have maintained that foreign fighters who came to fight for Kiev are mercenaries and therefore unlawful combatants who are not protected under the Geneva Conventions.
Peskov said he had no information about Grady Kurpasi, the third American fighter recently reported missing in Ukraine.
The Kremlin spokesman was also asked about Brittney Griner, the WNBA player who was arrested in Moscow on February 17 and remains in jail. Griner is not a “hostage,” he said, but is being investigated for breaking the law. Police said they found vape cartridges with hash oil in Griner’s luggage at Sheremetyevo Airport. If convicted of possession of an illegal substance, she could face up to 10 years behind bars.