June 10, 2023

Russian-backed forces have held two US military veterans in Ukraine for months was freed As part of the prisoner swap, Saudi Arabia, which made the deal, said on Wednesday.

Alexander Druk and Andy Tay Huynh were released along with eight other prisoners of war, including citizens of the United Kingdom, Morocco, Sweden and Croatia. Druk, a former Army staff sergeant who served in Iraq, and Huynh, a former Marine, were captured in June near the Ukrainian border city of Kharkiv. The pair traveled from Alabama to fight against Russian forces.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said the prisoner exchange took place brokerage By Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The country added that it is also working to repatriate all prisoners of war.

It is unclear who was released to Russia as part of the deal.

US military veterans Andy Tay Huynh (left) and Alexander Druk
US military veterans Andy Tay Huynh (left) and Alexander Druk

Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily, left; and Lois “Bunny” Drook/Diana Shaw, AP, via file

Diana Shaw, Drook’s aunt, told the Washington Post His mother spoke to him for about 10 minutes after his release on Wednesday.

“He sounded clear-headed with clear speech,” Shaw told the paper. “He sounded like himself.”

The prisoner exchange came at a crucial moment in the Kremlin’s offensive. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he would call up about 300,000 reserve troops to bolster his country’s ongoing offensive. The effort comes amid staggering losses for the Russians as its seven-month offensive continues.

British Prime Minister Liz Truss thank you Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky and the Saudis called for the release of the UK prisoners, saying the exchange “ends months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families.”

“Very welcome news of the safe return of five British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine,” he tweeted. “Russia must end its brutal exploitation of prisoners of war and civilian prisoners for political purposes.”

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