ALABAMA (WHNT) — Two Alabama veterans who have been held captive in Ukraine after volunteering to help fight are officially free and on their way home, family members confirm.
“We are thrilled to announce that Alex and Andy are free,” Dianna Shaw, aunt of Alex Drueke told News 19. “They are safely in the custody of the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia…after medical checks and debriefing, they will return to the States.”
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Family members confirmed the pair’s release to News 19 on Wednesday afternoon.
“We deeply appreciate everyone’s prayers and especially the close communication and support of our elected officials,” added Shaw. “Ukrainian Ambassador Markarova, and our members of the US Embassies in Ukraine and Saudi Arabia and the U.S. Department of State.”
Congressman Robert Aderholt also confirmed that both men have been freed.
“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.”
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.
The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Crown Prince and the Saudi government had successfully negotiated the release of the foreign fighters. Bunny Drueke, the mother of Alex Drueke, who had not spoken to any officials regarding the men in over a month, spoke about the release.
“We had no clue, no clue at all. We felt like something big was about to happen, but it was just maybe even wishful thinking, just wanting something big to happen but then it did,” said Drueke.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said ten prisoners of war from Croatia, Morocco, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States were released to them as part of an exchange between Russia and Ukraine.
They said Saudi authorities received and transferred the POWs from Russia to Saudi Arabia and are working to safely return them to their home countries.
Saturday, September 17 marked 100 days since Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh decided to volunteer to assist the Ukrainian Army.
The families of both men recently spoke with News 19 about the struggle over the past months as they have tried coping and working to free both men.
“Everyone that was involved from our state department stepped up to the plate here and worked on this issue and of course we are very thankful for the Saudi government for their negotiations on this. A lot of folks had a lot of work to make this happen,” said Aderholt.
News 19 will work to update this story with more information as it becomes available.
This is a developing story.