Captured US veterans face death penalty

Two American veterans who were captured by Russian-backed separatist forces in a battle near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, could face the death penalty earlier this month, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov said told NBC News.

Peskov declared the fate of Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, and Army Sgt. Alexander Drueke, 39, will be tried in a Russian court. They were “involved in illegal activities” and “should be punished”, he said.

Huynh and Drueke would be the first Americans captured by Russian forces since the war began on February 24. The veterans traveled to Ukraine in April to help Ukrainians fend off Russian forces.

Russian state television broadcast a video of the two men on Friday, confirming that they had been taken prisoner and raising fears about their fate. “We’re just hoping for good news,” Huynh’s fiancée, Joy Black, 21, told USA TODAY. “He has such a big heart and a lot of compassion for people in need.”

Last week, two Britons and a Moroccan were sentenced to death by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Prosecutors claimed they were mercenaries and not entitled to the protections given to prisoners of war.

— Celina Tebor

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Latest developments

►The Nobel Peace Prize auctioned by Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov to raise money for Ukrainian refugee children sold on Monday evening for $103.5 million, more than 20 times the highest amount previously paid for a Nobel. Muratov also donated the $500,000 that came with the award to charity.

Zelenskyy adviser: Ukraine under threat of ‘massive’ missile attack from Black Sea

Adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Oleksiy Arestovych, said on social media on Monday that Ukraine was under threat of another large-scale Russian attack, posting: “The six Russian cruise missile carriers lined up at sea Noire and are most likely preparing for a massive missile launch.”

In an overnight address on Sunday, Zelenskyy warned of a likely onslaught from Russia this week, when the European Union debates whether to make Ukraine an official candidate to possibly join the bloc.

“Obviously we should expect more hostile activity from Russia. Deliberately, demonstratively. Exactly this week,” Zelenskyy said. “And not only against Ukraine, but also against other European countries. We are preparing. We are ready. We are warning the partners.”

If they launch an attack, the Russians could retaliate to Ukrainian missile fire on Monday at three drilling rigs in the Black Sea that supply natural gas to Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that the Kremlin illegally annexed in 2014. State news agency TASS reported the strikes resulted in injuries.

The Ukrainian army did not provide confirmation.

—Jorge L. Ortiz

Contribute: The Associated Press

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