FAMILY: Alabama veterans, being held captive in Ukraine, have been freed

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 11:50 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2022 at 10:36 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The family of Alex Drueke, former U.S. soldier being held captive by Russian-backed forces, said he has been freed, along with fellow American Andy Huynh.

Drueke’s aunt, Dianna Shaw, confirmed to WBRC’s Mike Dubberly that the family received a call Wednesday morning from the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia, that both Drueke and Huynh had been freed.

Shaw said the woman from the Embassy asked Lois “Bunny” Drueke several questions in order to confirm she was his mother. The woman then put Alex Drueke on the phone and allowed him to talk to his mother. Bunny said, “He sounded strong, spoke clearly, was thinking clearly, sounded like himself.

The family doesn’t know arrangements yet on how they are going to get the men home.

Statement from the Drueke family:

“We are thrilled to announce that Alex and Andy are free. 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. We deeply appreciate everyone’s prayers and especially the close communication and support of our elected officials, Ukrainian Ambassador Markarova, and our members of the US embassies in Ukraine and Saudi Arabia and the US Department of State.”

From the State Department:

The United States welcomes the negotiated prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia, which includes two U.S. citizens captured while serving in Ukraine’s military. The United States is appreciative of Ukraine including all prisoners of war, regardless of nationality, in its negotiations, and we look forward to these U.S. citizens being reunited with their families. We also thank our Saudi partners for helping to spearhead this humanitarian initiative and facilitating the return of ten foreign nationals, including the two U.S. citizens greeted earlier today by our embassy team in Riyadh. I conveyed my gratitude to Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan in a call this morning.

We once again reiterate that U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict and the singling out of U.S. citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials. U.S. citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if it is safe to do so using any commercial or other privately available ground transportation options. Americans who travel to Ukraine to participate in the fighting there face significant risks and the United States cannot guarantee their safety. We encourage U.S. citizens to devote their energies towards the many other opportunities that exist to help the country of Ukraine and its people.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Statement:‏‎

Based on the priority given by HRH Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister, and in continuation of HRH’s commitment to the humanitarian initiatives towards the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, and resulting from HRH’s continued engagement with the relevant countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announces the success of HRH’s mediation efforts that led to the release of ten prisoners of war (POWs) – who are Moroccan, US, UK, Swedish and Croatian nationals, who are being released as part of an exchange of POWs between Russia and Ukraine. The relevant Saudi authorities received and transferred them from Russia to the Kingdom and are facilitating procedures for their safe return to their respective countries. In this regard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses the gratitude and appreciation of the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Russian Federation and to Ukraine for their response to the efforts made by the Crown Prince for the release of the POWs.

Congressman Robert Aderholt released this statement: “The family of Andy Huynh has informed my office that the two veterans have been freed from their captivity in eastern Ukraine,” said Congressman Aderholt. “My office is working to get more information from the United States Department of State about the health of these men and how soon they will be brought home to their families in the U.S.”

“I want to say how thankful and relieved I am that they have been freed. Having met with Joy and Darla Black, I know they are beyond relieved and excited for this news. I know we all look forward to seeing them back safely, on American soil.”

Aderholt said according to the family of Andy Huynh, Andy and Alex are currently at the U.S. Embassy in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh where they are undergoing a medical evaluation.

Rep. Sewell spoke with Alex Drueke’s family today following the news of his release. Ms. Lois “Bunny” Drueke, his mother, and Ms. Dianna Shaw, his aunt, released the following joint statement:

“We are thrilled to announce that Alex and Andy are free. 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 States. We deeply appreciate everyone’s prayers and especially the cooperation and support of Rep. Sewell and the U.S. Department of State.”

Drueke and Huynh were serving in the Ukrainian Army when the unit they were assigned to came under heavy fire on June 9, 2022. The families first learned the men were missing in action on June 13, and received evidence of their captivity two days later.

New pictures of Alex Drueke
New pictures of Alex Drueke(Drueke family/Dianna Shaw)

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