October 6, 2022

Two US military veterans who disappeared while fighting Russia with Ukrainian forces were released after approx three months in captivityrelatives said Wednesday.

Alex Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, disappeared in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine near the Russian border on June 9. They both traveled to Ukraine on their own and became friends because they are both from Alabama.

The families announced their release in a joint statement by Dianne Shaw, Drueke’s aunt.

“They are safely in the custody of the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia and will return to the States after medical examinations and debriefing,” the statement said.

US Army veterans Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh and Alexander Drueke left their homes in Alabama to serve with the Ukrainian military on the battlefield. They were reportedly captured by Russian forces during fighting in eastern Ukraine in June 2022.

Shaw said both men had spoken with relatives in the United States and were in “fairly good condition,” according to a US embassy official.

The Saudi embassy released a statement saying it brokered the release of 10 prisoners from Morocco, the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Croatia. Shaw confirmed that Drueke and Huynh were part of the group.

The UK has confirmed that five British nationals have been freed, with MP Robert Jenrick saying one of them is Aiden Aslin, 28, who was sentenced to death after being captured in eastern Ukraine.

“Aiden’s return brings to an end months of agonizing uncertainty for Aiden’s loving family in Newark who suffered every day due to Aiden’s sham trial but never lost hope. Now that they are reunited as a family, they can finally be at peace,” Jenrick tweeted .

US Army veterans Alexander Drueke, left, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, are seen with other foreign fighters in Ukraine.

Drueke joined the Army at age 19 after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and believed he could help Ukrainian fighters because of his training and experience with weapons, Shaw said earlier. Drueke considered leaving for a few weeks, she said, then decided and left in mid-April.

Huynh moved to north Alabama two years ago from his native California and lives about 120 miles (193 kilometers) from Drueke. Before leaving for Europe, Huynh told his local newspaper, The Decatur Daily, that he couldn’t stop thinking about invading Russia.

“I know it wasn’t my problem, but there was that feeling that I had to do something,” Huynh told the paper. “Two weeks after the war started, it was eating me up inside and it just felt wrong. I was losing sleep… All I could think about was the situation in Ukraine.”

The two men were attached to their home country and were together when their unit came under heavy fire. Relatives spoke to Drueke several times by phone while the two were being held in custody.

One member of their squadron he told CBS News this summer that they were all nearly killed by a Russian vehicle, when Drueke and Huynh destroyed it with a rocket-propelled grenade, saving their lives.

The Kremlin has said it knows nothing about Americans being held by Russia. But during the TV segment, the presenter could be heard on the recording of the Russian state media mocking families as images of the two appeared in the background.

Drueke’s mother previously told “CBS Mornings” that her son “felt very strongly that Putin should be stopped, because he said that Putin will not be satisfied with just part of Ukraine, or even all of Ukraine.”

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