After spending about three months in captivity, two American military veterans who disappeared while fighting with Ukrainian forces against Russia were released on Wednesday along with seven other POWs by Russian-backed separatists as part of a prisoner exchange mediated by Saudi Arabia.
The statement released by the Saudi embassy said the Kingdom also helped secure the release of prisoners from Morocco, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Croatia.
The families of Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh announced their release in a joint statement from Drueke’s aunt Dianna Shaw, pointing out that they’re now safe in the custody of the US embassy in Saudi Arabia and will return to the states after medical checks and debriefing.
According to an official with the US embassy, both men are in pretty good shape.
Drueke and Huynh traveled to Ukraine on their own from Alabama and went missing on June 9 in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, near the Russian border.
They were being held by Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, making it necessary for others to lead efforts to get them released since Washington does not recognize Donetsk People’s Republic’s sovereignty and has no diplomatic relations with them.
Drueke and Huynh’s releases were welcomed by Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, who thanked the governments of Ukraine and Saudi Arabia for securing the detainees‘ freedom.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also thanked Saudi government partners for securing the release of the prisoners, noting that the US is appreciative of Ukraine including all prisoners of war, regardless of nationality, in its negotiations.
Several Americans have now died in Ukraine so far, including video journalist Brent Renaud, Minnesotan Jimmy Hill, Luke “Skywalker” Lucyszyn, who first went to Ukraine to be a medic, and Bryan Young.