• Drueke and Huynh were reported missing by their families last week
  • Peskov said Drueke and Huynh will be investigated for their 'crimes'
  • The Russian official said the Geneva Conventions cannot be applied to 'soldiers of fortune'

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, has said that two American military veterans in their captivity are not protected as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions and they should be “held responsible for those crimes they have committed” in Ukraine.

The veteran soldiers were fighting alongside the Ukrainian military when they were captured by Russian forces.

In an exclusive interview, NBC News’ Keir Simmons asked Peskov about captured U.S. military veterans Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh and where they are being held, to which the Kremlin press secretary replied, “They are soldiers of fortune and they were involved in illegal activities on the territory of Ukraine. They were involved in firing and shelling our military personnel. They were endangering their life and they should be responsible. They should be held responsible for those crimes that they have committed. Those crimes have to be investigated.”

When asked by Simmons whether the captured Americans are considered prisoners of war, Peskov said he will not discuss the “juridical side” of the veterans’ capture. Simmons pressed Peskov further, noting that under the Geneva Conventions, “fighting in a conflict is not something, that is, you can be tried for.” Peskov said the veterans “are not the Ukrainian army,” adding that “they are not a subject to the Geneva Convention.” Peskov further reiterated that “the Geneva Conventions cannot be applied to soldiers of fortune.”

Simmons went on to ask Peskov whether Drueke and Huynh would “face the same fate” as a Moroccan and two British citizens sentenced to death earlier this month by Russian government-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. “It depends on the investigation,” Peskov replied, according to NBC News.

Drueke and Huynh were reported missing by their families last week. Drueke’s mother, Lois Drueke, said she was informed by one of her son’s friends earlier last week that her son and Huynh did not return from a mission. Lois Drueke further revealed that in her last conversation with her son, he told her he would be in the “dark” for a couple of days.

On Friday, Russian state television showed Drueke to confirm his capture, the Associated Press reported. Drueke spoke from what looked like an office, addressing his mother. “Mom, I just want to let you know that I’m alive and I hope to be back home as soon as I can be. So, love Diesel for me. Love you,” he said. Diesel is Drueke’s mastiff dog.

In a separate video, Huynh was shown delivering a pro-Russian message, ABC News reported. Russian state-backed media reported that the video of Huynh was recorded Friday in a detention center in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Last Friday, President Joe Biden said that he has been briefed about the missing veterans, but that the government doesn’t know where they are, The Hill reported. He also reiterated that “Americans should not be going to Ukraine now.”

Fighting from entrenched positions has become a hallmark of the Ukraine war
Fighting from entrenched positions has become a hallmark of the Ukraine war AFP / SERGEY BOBOK