Russia Frees 10 Foreign Fighters, Including Americans

Men were released, flown out of country under deal brokered by Saudi Arabia
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2022 3:04 PM CDT
Russia Frees 10 Foreign Fighters, Including Americans
This photo provided by Dianna Shaw shows US military veteran Alexander Drueke of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and his mother, Lois "Bunny" Drueke.   (Lois "Bunny" Drueke/Dianna Shaw via AP, File)

(Newser) – Hours after Vladimir Putin announced that he was stepping up the war in Ukraine by mobilizing hundreds of thousands of reservists, there was good news for the families of two Americans who fought for Ukraine. Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, who were captured in June, were among 10 foreign fighters released Wednesday as part of a prisoner exchange brokered by Saudi Arabia, NBC reports. The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the prisoners had been transferred to Saudi Arabia, where authorities are "facilitating procedures for their safe return home."

After Drueke, 39, and Huynh, 27—both military veterans from Alabama—were captured in the Kharkiv region, Russian authorities said they wouldn't rule out the death penalty. The other eight prisoners released under the deal include five British citizens and one citizen each from Morocco, Sweden, and Croatia. British authorities confirmed that the five UK citizens include 28-year-old Aiden Aslin, one of three men sentenced to death by a court in a Russian-controlled area of eastern Ukraine in June, the AP reports. British Prime Minister Liz Truss said the release was "hugely welcome news."

Dianna Shaw, an aunt of Drueke, said the two men are in "pretty good shape." 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," she said. Saudi Arabia says Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman played a key role in securing the men's release. Reuters notes that the prince has maintained close ties to Putin despite pressure from the US to isolate Moscow. (Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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