Russia’s US Ambassador has declared its embassy has received no communications from the White House regarding two Americans being held captive for fighting in Ukraine.
Anatoly Antonov, the head of the diplomatic mission, made the assertion Tuesday while speaking to journalists from the state-owned Russian News Agency (TASS).
The statement from the ambassador contradicted claims from the US State Department made earlier in the day, that officials had been in talks with the Kremlin about the imprisoned Americans.
Meanwhile, Moscow has said it can not guarantee the lives of Alex Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, who were captured by state-backed forces during fighting in Kharkiv on June 11.
The men – who are being treated as mercenaries by the state – are believed to still be alive, and recently appeared in videos released to the internet by state-owned media.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, continues to insist that it is doing ‘everything’ possible to bring Drueke and Huynh home safely.
Anatoly Antonov, the head of the diplomatic mission, made the assertion Tuesday while speaking to journalists from the state-owned Russian News Agency (TASS)
Moscow has said it can not guarantee the lives of Alex Drueke (left) and Andy Huynh (right), who were captured by state-backed forces during fighting on June 11. This undated photo of the two was uploaded Thursday – a day before the state released a video of the pair
Antonov, however, says otherwise – according to state media.
‘There were no requests to the embassy. I do not confirm receiving a request of this kind from the US side,’ the ambassador was quoted as saying by TASS.
‘The embassy did not contact us.’
Earlier in the day, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the White House had been ‘in touch’ with Moscow about the captives.
‘We have been in touch with Russian authorities regarding U.S. citizens who may have been captured while fighting in Ukraine,’ Price told reporters around 2:30 pm ET.
He added that the agency had ‘also been in touch with our Ukrainian partners, with the ICRC, with other countries, as well as with the families of Americans who have been reported missing in Ukraine.
‘We have both publicly as well as privately called on the Russian Government and its proxies to live up to their international obligations in their treatment of all individuals, including those captured fighting in Ukraine,’ Price, 39, said.
Drueke, 39, left, and Andy Huynh, 27, appeared terrified in footage released by Russian forces where they identified themselves and denounced war. They men went missing last week after their platoon in Ukraine was ambushed by Russian soldiers
‘We expect – and in fact, international law and the law of war expects and requires – that all those who have been captured on the battlefield be treated humanely and with respect and consistent with the laws of war.’
Later on in the address, however, Price said that the department had ‘not received any formal or official response’ from the Kremlin regarding the captured pair – who took up arms and flew to Ukraine to join the fight earlier in the year after being outraged over the invasion.
‘We have been in contact with Russian authorities regarding the reports of detained Americans,’ Price said. ‘We have not received any formal or official response.
‘The only response we’ve seen has been the response that Russian officials have made in public interviews.’
When contacted by DailyMail.com, a department spokesperson refused to further comment on the matter.
‘We have nothing to add beyond Ned’s remarks,’ the rep said.
Meanwhile, Russian officials have said that they can not guarantee the safe return of the men, who are both former members of the US Marines.
In an interview with NBC News Monday , Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the pair were not protected by the Geneva Convention – which outlaws taking prisoners of war – because they were not part of the official Ukrainian army.
He pointed out that the actions of the Americans ‘must be investigated and they must be brought to justice.’
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told NBC News when asked if the two US citizens would be given the same death-by-firing-squad sentence that was handed down to British fighters Shaun Pinner, 48, and Aiden Aslin, 28
Peskov did not rule out the possibility that US citizens could be sentenced to capital punishment in the Donetsk People’s Republic.
‘It depends on the investigation,’ Peskov said when asked if the two US citizens would be given the same death-by-firing-squad sentence that was handed down to British fighters Shaun Pinner, 48, and Aiden Aslin, 28, earlier this month.
‘Those guys on the battlefield were firing at our military guys. They were endangering their lives. There will be a court, and there will be a court decision.
‘They should be held responsible for those crimes they have committed. Those crimes have to be investigated…The only thing that is clear is that they have committed crimes.
Huynh, a former Marine from Hartselle, Alabama, was captured in Kharkiv on June 11. Russian officials have said that they can not guarantee his safe return. He had never seen combat before traveling to Ukraine
Unlike Huynh, Drueke, from Tuscaloosa, is an experienced military veteran
‘They are not in the Ukrainian army. They are not subject to the Geneva convention.’
‘They should be punished,’ he said.
Peskov would not reveal where the men were held.
Family members said last week the two men – both from Alabama – went to Ukraine as volunteer fighters and had gone missing.
Drueke served in the US Army in Iraq but Huynh, who traveled to the region to help after watching the war unfold from afar. has never been in active combat before.
Later that week, Russian state media broadcast images and video of the pair appearing beaten and tired, that saw them declare their opposition to the war.
‘My name is Alexander Drueke, I am against war,’ Drueke said. He then reiterates in Russian, ‘Ya protiv voyny,’ meaning I am against war.
‘Ya protiv voyny,’ Huynh repeats after a quick cut.
Another video shows Drueke addressing his mother, Bunny, as he promises her that he will be back home.
‘Mom, I just wanted to let you know that I’m alive, and I hope to be back home as soon as I can,’ Drueke said. ‘Love you.’
Firefighters work at the site of fire after Russian shelling in Mykolaiv in Ukraine this weekend after the latest bombardment
On Monday, one of the men’s comrades in Ukraine spoke out anonymously to CBS to say he felt guilty for bringing them to the war zone.
‘They sort of followed me out here.
‘We all agreed there was no leader in the group but I definitely feel a bit guilty, without a doubt.
‘We should have taken a closer look at more humanitarian options or training options.
‘If we did, then they wouldn’t be in the situation they’re in,’ he said.