LONDON — The U.S. State Department said on Thursday it was aware of reports that a third American had been captured by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.
Suedi Murekezi, who was born in Rwanda, was arrested last month in the southern city of Kherson, according to his family and friends.
A spokesperson for the State Department told Yahoo News that it was “aware of these unconfirmed reports” but “due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment.”
The crypto investor’s family said Murekezi had been living in the now occupied city for more than two years. “We are all extremely worried for his well-being. He is obviously in danger,” his brother, Sele, told the Guardian. “They are using him as a pawn for their own propaganda purpose.”
Sele Murekezi said he had not heard from his brother for a month before receiving a call from him in the early hours of July 7. Sele claimed Suedi told him he had been imprisoned in Donetsk, a city located in the Russian-backed breakaway region of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in the Donbas.
Suedi Murekezi, a U.S. Air Force veteran, is being wrongly accused by his captors of joining pro-Ukrainian protests, according to his family and friends, who said he did not participate in any fighting while in Ukraine.
The investor also told his brother that he was in the same jail as Americans Alex Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh. The two veterans had been serving as volunteer fighters in Ukraine in June when they were captured. Their comrades previously told Yahoo News they were informed that the two men were taken prisoner on June 9 during a battle northeast of Kharkiv.
Another American, former U.S. Marine Grady Kurpasi, has also been reported missing, but it’s unclear whether he was captured in Ukraine. Kurpasi’s wife said she stopped hearing from him in April, after he arrived in Ukraine in March to “go and help the Ukrainian people.”
Eduard Basurin, a spokesman for the DPR, told Russian state TV that all “convicted foreign mercenaries” who were captured should be killed. He said the situation was not about people who traveled to Ukraine “to kill for money” but rather “about their political stance.”
Basurin said that most of those going to Ukraine to help Kyiv’s forces are "nationalists of their own countries,” and “for that reason we should be destroying them.”
“We’ll help the countries from which they came by destroying them, because if they were to return they would do the same in their own country,” he said.