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Putin, Ukraine EU Candidacy and Latest War News: Live Updates

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Credit …Daniel Berehulak for the New York Times

In recent weeks, a number of thousands of foreign volunteers who flocked to join the war against Russia have disappeared or been captured.

Last week, two Britons and a Moroccan who were taken prisoner while fighting for the Ukrainian armed forces were sentenced to death in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine after being charged with terrorism.

This week, two Americans fighting a group of foreign soldiers disappeared in action near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, which is about 25 miles from the Russian border. Their families fear they have been captured after disappearing after the platoon was attacked.

Missing and captured fighters have focused on thousands of largely unregulated volunteers in Ukraine, only a few of whom have been admitted to the International Legion of the Ukrainian Army.

The platoon where the missing Americans belonged was one of dozens of freely organized volunteer outfits dipped by foreign veterans, including many Americans. Volunteers have proven to be valuable assets and sometimes an undisciplined problem for Ukraine, and pose a potentially difficult challenge for their governments if caught or caught.

On Friday, President Biden said he had been informed of the two Americans reported missing in Ukraine and that the administration did not know their current whereabouts.

I want to reiterate: Americans should not go to Ukraine now, he said.

The International Legion, formed after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a call in late February for foreigners to help in the war, is considered the most selective group by foreign groups.

Damien Magrou, a French-Norwegian lawyer who is spokesman for the Ukrainian Army International Legion, said in an interview in April that he thought the war had struck a chord among many American veterans.

There are also many American veterinarians who think they can make a difference because the US has been involved in far more conflicts in the last 20 years than European countries, he said.

Mr Magrou, a lieutenant in the legion structure, said admitted volunteers are now required to have combat experience, have no record of dishonest behavior and have no membership in extremist groups. Other groups are less selective, he said.

Mr Magrou said he encourages volunteers refused by the legion to take an army-provided transport bus to the Polish border. But, he added, they are legally in place and we can not force them to do anything.

Russia claims that some of the foreign fighters it has captured are mercenaries and do not have the right to defend themselves as prisoners of war under international law. A local court in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region found that two British and a Moroccan fighter who had emigrated to Ukraine were guilty of training with the intent to carry out terrorist activities and that they undertook their activities in return for payment.

It remains unclear what missions were carried out by the group whose American members went missing, or who in the Ukrainian armed forces or the government oversaw and gave them orders.

The missing U.S. veterans are Alex Drueke, 39, a former U.S. Army staff sergeant who served in Iraq, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, a former Marine, family members said. They disappeared when their platoon came under heavy fire in a village on June 9, causing all its members to withdraw, except two of them, according to a statement sent by Mr.’s family. Druekes. The discovery by foot and drone found no sign of the two soldiers, the statement said.

Geneva Conventions, which regulate the law of war and that Russia has signed, specify that captured volunteer fighters can also be considered prisoners of war. The main definition of a mercenary under international law is someone who fights primarily for financial gain, who is paid significantly more than the local armed forces.

Those who join the International Legion are paid the same amount as their Ukrainian military counterparts. They receive a basic salary, equivalent to about $ 630 a month, with bonuses that can reach several thousand dollars a month.

Some who struggle with other groups are paid lump sums to cover their expenses, while others are unpaid.

Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne, an associate professor of law at the University of Bristol, said that even volunteer fighters who are not involved in the Ukrainian army will have the right to defend the POWs if they openly carry weapons during combat.

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