LONDON (Reuters) -Russia has released U.S. citizens Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, in a prisoner exchange brokered by Saudi Arabia, a family representative told Reuters on Wednesday.
The pair, both from Alabama, were captured in June while fighting in eastern Ukraine where they went to support Ukrainian troops resisting Russia’s invasion.
Russia on Wednesday released 10 foreign prisoners of war captured in Ukraine, following a mediation by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi foreign ministry said.
Drueke and Huynh were believed to be the first U.S. citizens confirmed captured by Russia’s forces in eastern Ukraine when they were reported missing in mid-June.
At the time, Huynh’s fiance, Joy Black, told Reuters the men had been motivated to support Kyiv in its fight against Russia after watching television footage from Ukraine in the first weeks after Russia invaded.
In an emailed statement to Reuters on Wednesday, Dianna Shaw, Drueke’s aunt and a spokesperson for both families, confirmed that Drueke and Huynh were among the 10 who had been released on Wednesday.
There was no official comment from Russia on the release.
Both Drueke of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Huynh of Hartselle, Alabama, had served in the U.S. military.
After they were captured by Russian forces, the two were detained in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), a Russian-backed separatist regime in eastern Ukraine. Russian state TV filmed interviews with the pair in which they said they had changed their opinion about the war since being sent to fight, in clips their family said were clearly coerced and being used for propaganda purposes.
(Reporting by Jake Cordell; Editing by Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman)