2 Americans captured in Ukraine by Russian forces freed in prisoner swap, their families say

Two U.S. military veterans who were captured by Russian-backed forces while fighting for Ukraine and held captive for months have reportedly been freed.

Multiple news outlets reported Wednesday that the families of Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, both military veterans from Alabama who had been serving as volunteers in Ukraine, have been informed by U.S. officials that the men were released in a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine.

“We are thrilled to announce that Alex and Andy are free,” Diana Shaw, a spokesperson for both families and Drueke’s aunt, told CNN. “They are safely in the custody of the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia and after medical checks and debriefing they will return to the United States.”

Shaw thanked U.S., Ukrainian and Saudi officials for their close communication in working to free them.

Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh.
Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh were released from Russian custody in a prisoner swap, according to their families. (Lois Drueke/Handout via Reuters, Handout via WAAYTV)

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Shaw told the Washington Post that Drueke’s mother spoke to him for about 10 minutes, and said he appeared to be in good condition. “He sounded clear-headed, with clear speech,” Shaw said. “He sounded like himself.”

Drueke, 39, and Huynh, 27, were captured while fighting in a battle northeast of Kharkiv on June 9. The families reported them missing on June 13 and received evidence of their captivity two days later.

The men were among hundreds of Westerners who traveled to Ukraine to help defend it from Russia’s military invasion, which began on Feb. 24. They were the first known Americans taken prisoner in the months-long conflict.

Earlier Wednesday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry announced the release of 10 prisoners of war captured in Ukraine by Russian forces in an exchange of POWs by Russia and Ukraine.

The freed prisoners were American, British, Croatian, Moroccan and Swedish nationals, the ministry said in a statement that did not identify the prisoners by name.

Robert Jenrick, a member of the British Parliament, tweeted that Aiden Aslin and other British prisoners held captive by Russia were released and are on their way back to the U.K.

“Aiden’s return brings to an end months of agonising uncertainty for Aiden’s loving family in Newark who suffered every day of Aiden’s sham trial but never lost hope,” Jenrick wrote. “As they are united as a family once more, they can finally be at peace.”