You might not be hearing all that much about the Russia/Ukraine conflict as of late, what with all the drama that is going on here in the United States. But let us not forget that a war is still in process over there. And those in Ukraine and Russia are not the only ones involved.
In fact, a number of Americans have been greatly affected by the ongoing siege of Ukraine.
Most recently, that number includes two Alabama-born military vets. Alexander Drueke is an Army vet. And Andy Huynh is a Marine Corps vet. Both have since taken up the mantle of serving in the Ukraine Military to help protect our ally from the invading Russians.
And according to The Telegraph, both have now been captured as prisoners of war (POWs) by the Russians. This happened last week while fighting northeast of Kharkiv.
However, Russia isn’t exactly treating these American soldiers as they should.
Usually, the Geneva Conventions afford all those legally fighting in war, whether born in that country or not, a series of protections. This would mean that things like torture, inhumane living conditions, or their appearance in propaganda materials are banned and punishable.
And yet, Russia is claiming that these two American men don’t deserve such protections.
Dmitry Peskov, who speaks on behalf of the Kremlin, appeared for an interview last week in which he referred to both men as “soldiers of fortune,” or mercenaries. And then went on to suggest that, as such, this disqualifies them for any protections the Geneva Conventions may have afforded them.
Now, to be clear, if the men were actually mercenaries, they would, in fact, not be protected as those who have actually sworn an oath to serve in a military force, be it American or Ukrainian.
According to international human rights protocols, mercenaries are anyone who is “motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party.”
In layman’s terms, it means they are paid rather exorbitantly to do a job that those legally serving in the military would only dream of.
The only problem is that neither Drueke nor Huynh can be classified like this. I’m not saying they aren’t getting paid anything. After all, soldiers of any and all military operations get paid at least something. But so far, there is no evidence to suggest that either Alabama native is anything more than a man who has sworn to serve America’s ally.
And sworn they most certainly have. Ukraine knows full well the cost of enlisting “mercenaries” and so, in their time of need, has instead taken on a number of men and women from other countries into their ranking by swearing them in as they would any member of their military.
According to sources, both Drueke and Huynh have taken an oath to serve in Ukraine’s military and, as such, are to be considered service members like any other Ukrainian-born soldier.
This not only means that both men are, in fact, entitled to the Geneva Conventions protections but that Biden and other American officials should be fighting hard to get them released from Russian custody and brought safely home.
But, of course, neither is happening.
In fact, both American men have already been used to stage a few Russian propaganda videos in which both can be seen with visible injuries, according to The Washington Post.
And while a spokesperson for the National Security Council in Washington, John Kirby, says that the Pentagon is doing “everything we can” to secure the men’s release, Biden has done absolutely nothing to suggest that much is being done in that effort.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Russia’s Donetsk People’s Republic, a puppet state in Eastern Ukraine, has denied lawful combatants these protections. For example, Aidin Aslin, a dual Ukraine and British citizen, was recently sentenced to death by Russia for his service to Ukraine, despite evidence proving he had been a sworn member of the Ukrainian military since 2018.
Naturally, this doesn’t give us much hope or confidence that the fate of Drueke or Huynh will be much different. But that doesn’t mean our government shouldn’t be fighting like hell to save them either.