Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Geneva Conventions for the protection of prisoners of war do not apply to two Americans captured in Ukraine, accusing them of being "involved in illegal activities."
Peskov made the comments during an exclusive interview with NBC News on Monday night.
Who are the Americans? US citizens Alexander John-Robert Drueke, 39, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, from Hartselle, Alabama, were taken into detention by Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk after being captured last week, according to Russian state media. They went missing on June 9 during a battle north of Kharkiv.
Peskov called Drueke and Huynh "soldiers of fortune."
"They were involved in firing and shelling our military personnel. They were endangering their lives. And they should be responsible. They should be held responsible for those — for those crimes that they have committed. Those crimes have to be investigated," he told NBC News.
Peskov wouldn't clarify whether the pair were being held by Russian or Donetsk authorities.
"So they’re being held in a new place, a new place to ensure that the investigation of their crimes is being completed," he said.
Peskov said their case would be "investigated in due course" but said "Geneva Conventions cannot be applied for soldiers of fortune."
"They are in not in the Ukrainian Army. They are not subject to Geneva Convention," he said.
Some context: Geneva Convention protections include that prisoners of war "must at all times be humanely treated."
"Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention," Article 13 of the convention states.