A Rwandan-American veteran who moved to Ukraine over two years ago has been captured by pro-Russian separatists in the wake of the ongoing invasion, his family said. According to The Guardian, pro-Russian separatists arrested Suedi Murekezi, 35, in Kherson last month.
“We are all extremely worried for his wellbeing. He is obviously in danger,” Suedi Murekezi’s, brother, Sele Murekezi, said. Sele added that he his brother called to notify him about his detention in a prison in Donetsk on July 7. The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic has support from Russia.
The jail where Murekezi is being held is also detaining two other American fighters that Russia captured. But Murekezi’s family claim he did not partake in the ongoing war, adding that he relocated to the European nation more than two years ago.
Murekezi reportedly told his brother that his captors had wrongly accused him of taking part in pro-Ukrainian protests. But Sele said that wasn’t the case. “They are using him as a pawn for their own propaganda purposes,” Sele said.
Russian forces captured Kherson on March 2. Troops from Moscow also suppressed pro-Ukraine protests after the city was captured. A spokesperson from the US state department told The Guardian that they were “aware of reports” of Murekezi’s arrest. The spokesperson, however, did not provide any further details because of “privacy considerations.”
Murekezi and his family immigrated to the United States after fleeing the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He relocated to Ukraine in 2020 due to business interests. His family said they realized he had disappeared after they noticed his car wasn’t parked around his flat. The veteran’s car has US license plates.
“He told us he was planning to use his car for the first time in a while in search of fuel,” Murekezi’s friend said. “Of course, such a car was going to attract attention from the Russian police.”
Murekezi’s brother also said his situation in the hands of captors could be dire as a result of the color of his skin. “Him being a black man adds to our fears, of course. Racism can play a role,” Sele Murekezi said.