American veterans captured by Russia while fighting for Ukraine released, families say

·2-min read
Robert Drueke, 39, (left) and Andy Huynh, 27 (right), were reportedly captured by Russian forces following a battle in Kharkiv, according to Russian military claims. The men are the first Americans fighting with Ukraine to be captured during the war. (social media)
Robert Drueke, 39, (left) and Andy Huynh, 27 (right), were reportedly captured by Russian forces following a battle in Kharkiv, according to Russian military claims. The men are the first Americans fighting with Ukraine to be captured during the war. (social media)

Two American men who were captured by Russians while fighting for Ukrainian defence forces have been released, their families said.

Andy Huynh and Alexander Drueke, both military veterans from Alabama, have reportedly been released after they were captured by Russians while fighting for Ukraine.

According to a joint statement released by their families, the men have reportedly been turned over to the custody of the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia.

"We are thrilled to announce that Alex and Andy are free," the families said. "They are safely in the custody of the US embassy in Saudi Arabia and after medical checks and debriefing they will return to the States."

The families said they "deeply appreciate everyone's prayers and especially the close communication and support of our elected officials, Ukrainian Ambassador Markarova, and our members of the US embassies in Ukraine and Saudi Arabia and the US Department of State."

According to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the men among 10 prisoners of war Russia released thanks to "mediation efforts" done on behalf of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

British, Swedish, Croatian and Moroccan nationals were also released as a result of that deal.

According to a fellow soldier who was with Mr Drueke and Mr Huynh, the men were captured after they helped to disable a Russian tank. The Americans were separated from the rest of their group in smoke from the attack and were then captured by Russian forces.

The men were then reportedly held in the Donetsk People's Republic, a Russian-backed separatist region in Ukraine.

The Americans appeared on Russian state TV in interviews during which the men said they had changed their opinion on the war. Their families said the men were clearly being coerced and used for propaganda by Russian military officials.

Mr Huynh's fiance, Joy Black, told Reuters that the men were motivated to aid Ukraine after watching early coverage of Russia's invasion.

“When Andy saw this footage coming out of Ukraine he said he couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, was just consumed by the horror that these innocent civilians were going through,” she said.

Lois Drueke, Mr Drueke’s mother, told the outlet that she did not like the idea of her son fighting in another war, but understood why it was important to him.

“As a mother of course I didn’t want my child in harm’s way,” she said. “But I knew that it was really important to Alex, he wanted a purpose to his life and he felt that this was good and noble.”