A day after the Kremlin said two American veterans captured by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine had committed war crimes and could face the death penalty, the Biden Administration expressed outrage and called on Russia to abide by international law.
The State Department said Tuesday that U.S. officials are in talks with Russian authorities about the two men, Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 29, who had volunteered to fight with the Ukrainian government’s forces. The U.S. is also in touch with the families of the two men, both of whom are from Alabama, and with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the department said.
Drueke and Huynh were detained by pro-Russian forces while fighting in eastern Ukraine, and their case raises concerns about the status of thousands of foreign volunteers currently fighting in the war-torn country. Human rights observers and legal scholars say foreign fighters serving under Ukrainian military command are entitled to prisoner-of-war (POW) status and according to long-standing rules laid out by the Geneva Conventions should not be prosecuted.
But Russian officials have instead labeled all foreigners who fight alongside the Ukrainians “mercenaries,” a legal term that means many international protections do not apply. Earlier this month, two British men and a Moroccan national caught fighting in Ukraine were sentenced to death by firing-squad for “war crimes” in a legal process that was widely condemned as a “show trial” in the pro-Russian breakaway republic of Donetsk.
Those men had spent more than a year in Ukraine, reportedly as part of the Ukrainian marines, and have a month to appeal their verdicts. But even other foreigners, like Drueke and Huynh, who were part of Ukraine’s International Legion should also be entitled to POW status, international law experts say. “If they were incorporated into the Ukrainian military, then …read more
Source:: Time – World