CNN — Two US veterans and five British citizens who had been held for months by Russian-backed forces were freed as part of the Saudi-brokered Russian-Ukrainian prisoner swap.
Relatives of Americans Alexander John-Robert Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Hartselle, Alabama, confirmed they had been released. They were captured while fighting for the Ukraine north of Kharkiv in June.
Drueke’s aunt issued a statement confirming the release of the two Americans.
“We are delighted to announce that Alex and Andy are free. They are safely in the custody of the United States Embassy in Saudi Arabia and, following medical checks and questioning, will return to the United States. We deeply appreciate everyone’s prayers and, especially the close communication and support of our elected officials, Ukrainian Ambassador Markarova, and members of the US Embassies in Ukraine and Saudi Arabia, as well as the US Department of State,” Diana said. Shaw, spokesperson for both families and Dreuke’s aunt.
The families were unaware of the prisoner exchange plans.
UK Prime Minister Liz Truss tweeted that five British citizens had been released.
“The news that five British nationals held by Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine have been returned safely, ending months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families,” Truss said.
Earlier this Wednesday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry announced the release of 10 prisoners of Moroccan, American, British, Swedish and Croatian nationality.
The prisoners were “released as part of a Russian-Ukrainian prisoner-of-war exchange” and taken to Saudi Arabia, according to a statement from the Saudi Foreign Ministry.