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US shocked by Kremlin spokesman’s remarks on possible death penalty for US mercenaries

"It’s appalling that a public official in Russia would even suggest the death penalty for two American citizens that were in Ukraine", John Kirby said

WASHINGTON, June 22. /TASS/. The United States is shocked by the fact that a Russian official can suggest the possibility of a death penalty for US citizens accused of joining Ukrainian troops as mercenaries, a senior White House official has told reporters.

Commenting on recent remarks by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, US National Security Council (NSC) Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said: "We’ve seen the comments by Mr. Peskov. <…> It’s appalling that a public official in Russia would even suggest the death penalty for two American citizens that were in Ukraine."

"We’re going to continue to try to learn what we can here about this," the NSC chief said.

At the same time, Kirby refused to comment on Washington’s possible course of action in case those individuals are not afforded protections under the Geneva Convention.

"I don’t think it’d be useful for us to get into hypotheticals right now," he said. "But I do think it’s important for us to make it clear: totally appalling for even the suggestion that result [a death penalty - TASS] could be the outcome here for these two individuals."

When asked whether Washington viewed Peskov’s remarks as a kind of signal to US President Joe Biden regarding the presence of US citizens in Ukrainian conflict hotspots, Kirby replied: "Either way, it’s equally alarming, whether they actually mean what they’re saying here and that this could be an outcome - that they could levy a death penalty against two Americans that were fighting in Ukraine - or that they just feel it’s a responsible thing for a major power to do - to talk about doing this as a way of signaling the President of United States and the American people."

Peskov’s comments

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Tuesday Two Americans recently captured in Donbass were being accused of mercenarism and were therefore not subject to the Geneva Convention. The Russian president’s press secretary noted that the actions of the captured Americans "should be investigated and they should be brought to justice." That said, he didn’t count out the possibility that the court would sentence them to capital punishment.

Last week, the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported that two former US servicemen, 39-year-old Alexander Drueke and 27-year-old Andy Huynh, were captured near Kharkov. On June 16, the US Department of State said the United States was ready for contacts with Russia over the American citizens detained near Kharkov who came to Ukraine to participate in combat. The agency reiterated its strong recommendations to US citizens not to visit Ukraine.

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised address that in response to a request by the heads of the Donbass republics he had made a decision to carry out a special military operation in order to protect people "who have been suffering from abuse and genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years." Following this, the US and its allies announced the introduction of sweeping sanctions against Russia and stepped up arms deliveries to Kiev.