LONDON — A third U.S. veteran has been reported missing while fighting Russian forces in Ukraine, the State Department said on Thursday.
According to CNN, former U.S. Marine Grady Kurpasi disappeared in recent months after traveling to Ukraine. The last time Kurpasi’s wife, Heeson Kim, and friends had heard from the serviceman was between April 23 and 24.
Kurpasi arrived in Ukraine on March 7, just weeks after Russia launched its invasion of the country, in a bid to volunteer alongside the Ukrainian army. According to his friend George Heath, however, he “wasn't really planning on fighting. … He wanted to go and help the Ukrainian people.”
President Biden on Friday said he had been briefed on the missing veterans, telling reporters, “We don’t know where they are.” The president urged Americans not to travel to Ukraine. “I’ll say it again, Americans should not be going to Ukraine," he repeated.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing on Thursday that the department was aware of a third American who had been identified in “recent weeks” as missing and that the department was “in touch with the family.”
Price said the department had urged Russia to treat any American volunteers “as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.” They should be “afforded the treatment and protections commensurate with that status, including humane treatment and fundamental process and fair trial guarantees,” he told reporters.
Under the Geneva Conventions, which originated following World War II, prisoners of war cannot be prosecuted for participating in the conflict, are entitled to their financial resources and “shall be released and repatriated without delay after the cessation of active hostilities.”
Kurpasi’s disappearance comes amid reports that two other U.S. veterans who had been serving as volunteers in Ukraine have been captured. Their comrades told Yahoo News they were informed that the two men were taken prisoner on June 9 during a battle northeast of Kharkiv.
“We have not since heard anything about their well-being,” the platoon of volunteer soldiers wrote on Twitter. “The information was confirmed by the Ukrainian intelligence.”
Alex Drueke's and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh’s families confirmed to the New York Times that their loved ones had gone missing while fighting in Ukraine. However, they were unable to confirm to the Times whether they had been captured.
If taken prisoner, Drueke and Huynh would be the first Americans known to become prisoners of war in the conflict.
The State Department told a relative of one of the men that it was aware of a photograph appearing to show the missing veterans that had been circulating on the social media platform Telegram. The image reportedly showed the two men with their hands tied behind them in the back of a military truck. A caption, written in Russian, accompanying the picture, appeared to mock them. According to the Guardian, the caption said the men had made a trip to Ukraine “for easy money” and that it had ended badly.