Two American citizens detained in Russian-occupied separatist regions of Ukraine re-entered the free world on Wednesday, the result of negotiations by Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman, according to the State Department.
Russian-controlled separatist forces in eastern Ukraine captured veterans Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, in June after they went to Ukraine as volunteer fighters resisting the Russian invasion, Reuters registered. Their families confirmed their release earlier on Wednesday before Saudi and Ukrainian officials announced a prisoner swap involving eight other foreign fighters as well as 200 Ukrainian soldiers.
“The United States welcomes the agreed prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia, which includes two US citizens captured while serving in the Ukrainian military,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken he said in a statement after the official announcement from Ukraine. (RELATED: Russia dashes Biden admin’s hopes of prisoner swap for detained WNBA star)
The ten freed foreign prisoners include f4 citizens of Great Britain, a Swede, a Croat and a Moroccan, according to Zelenski’s top advisor Andriy Yermak.
“We also thank our Saudi partners for helping launch this humanitarian initiative,” Blinken said, adding that a team from the US Embassy in Riyadh greeted the two Americans upon their arrival.
Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the success of the Saudi-led effort “based on the priority given” by bin Salman and “which resulted [bin Salman’s] continued cooperation with relevant countries.”
The US initially had no leads on the whereabouts of Drueke and Huynh after they disappeared from their squadron in the Kharkiv region, CBS News registered. Russian media later released a video showing the two, although the Kremlin denied it knew the Americans were being held in Russia.
An American who fought alongside the two in Ukraine told CBS that the group “knew that by going there and serving for the government of Ukraine, that we would be given little or no protection and that the United States government would be powerless to help us.”
— واس الاخبار الملكية (@spagov) September 21, 2022
UK confirmed the release of Aiden Aslin, a British prisoner who has gained a significant following on social media documenting his experience as an at-will soldier in Ukraine earlier Wednesday. Many feared Aslin would not return home after a court in the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic sentenced him and two other foreign fighters to death in June for serving as mercenaries on behalf of Ukraine, BBC registered.
Prime Minister Liz Truss he said the development was “very welcome” and ended “months of uncertainty and suffering for [the British nationals] and their families.”
We thank you @ZelenskyyUa, @AndriyYermak and the Ukrainian government due to the inclusion of 2 US citizens in the prisoner exchange announced today. We thank the Crown Prince and the Government of Saudi Arabia for their help. We look forward to the reunion of our citizens with their families.
— Jake Sullivan (@JakeSullivan46) September 21, 2022
On Tuesday, the leaders of four regions in eastern Ukraine, where many foreign prisoners are apparently being held, announced plans to hold a vote on joining the Russian Federation.
The Saudi embassy in the US did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.
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