Russian state television on Friday showed video of two US veterans who went missing last week while fighting in Ukraine, confirming that they have been captured.
Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, both from Alabama, are believed to be the first Americans to be captured by Russian forces since the war began on February 24.
Drueke, speaking to the camera in what appeared to be an office, sent her mother a message, which she concluded with a quick wink.
“Mom, I just want you to know that I am alive and I hope to return home as soon as I can. So give Diesel some love for me. Love you”. Diesel is her dog, a mastiff.
His aunt, Dianna Shaw, said the video included a code word and gesture that Drueke and his mother had agreed upon during one of his two stints in Iraq so she would know it really was him and that he was okay.
Drueke, who was in the US Army, and Huynh, who was a member of the Marine Corps, went missing after the group faced an intense attack on June 9 in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine.
According to the RT report, Drueke said that he and Huynh separated from the group and that, once they were safe, they advanced through the forest until they reached a village, where a Russian patrol approached them and they surrendered.
RT, which broadcasts in English, said they were in the hands of pro-Russian separatist forces in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Three other foreigners fighting for Ukraine — two Britons and a Moroccan — were sentenced to death by a separatist-run court in Donetsk, which is in Donbas.
Neither the US nor the Russian government has officially confirmed that the two Americans are detained.