A Minnesota man living in Ukraine vanished after Russian forces appeared to have detained him while he was trying to flee the southern port city of Kherson, his mother said Thursday.
In an interview with MSNBC, Tina Hauser said her son, Tyler Jacob, 28, was removed Saturday from a bus that had been headed for Turkey, according to a passenger who was traveling with him.
The passenger, a Turkish citizen, told Jacob’s wife that he was taken from the bus at a checkpoint in Russian-controlled Crimea, Hauser said.
“We haven’t heard from him since,” Hauser said, adding that she believes he was detained because he’s a U.S. citizen.
“He wasn’t doing anything bad,” she said. “He was trying to live a life over there with his wife and daughter. He just was a U.S. citizen, and it was a target on him.”
She added: “This was and has been the beginning of my worst nightmare. I was afraid he was going to get captured. And I don’t want to even think about the next two fears of never seeing him or having him killed by them guys.”
Jacob moved to Ukraine last year with his then-girlfriend to teach English, Hauser said. The couple were married in January.
Hauser said she and her son talked regularly since the move. The last time she heard from him was Saturday morning.
Kherson, a large, strategically important city two hours north of Crimea, fell to Russian forces earlier this month. Defiant Ukrainians have taken to the streets in the days since — even as Russian forces detained activists and seized the city’s TV towers, and as food and medical supplies dwindled.
Hauser said she’s been in contact with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and her U.S. senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith.
A State Department spokeswoman said officials were aware of reports of Jacob’s disappearance, but she declined further comment, citing privacy considerations.
In a statement, Smith called the story of Jacob’s disappearance “horrible” and said she is working closely with Klobuchar and the State Department “to do everything we can to figure out where he is and to bring him home safely.”