Two men from Alabama who were captured after volunteering to aid Ukrainian forces against the aggressions of the Russian military will soon return home to their families, reports say.
Alex Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, were fighting together in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine on June 9 when they were apprehended and taken captive by a Russian-supported separatist group known as the Donetsk People’s Republic, a quasi nation-state within Ukraine that has not been recognized by the United States.
“We are thrilled to announce that Alex and Andy are free,” the families said in a joint statement. “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.”
Because the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with the DPR, others had to negotiate for the release of Drueke and Huynh. On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia announced that it had managed to secure from the DPR the release of 10 total foreign national prisoners, representing the U.S., the United Kingdom, Morocco, Sweden, and Croatia.
Drueke and Huynh are said to be “in pretty good shape,” according to Drueke’s aunt, Dianna Shaw.
Drueke, an Army veteran, and Huynh, a marine veteran who originally hails from California, lived approximately 120 away from each other in Alabama when they both decided to enlist with Ukrainian forces back in April. Drueke, who first joined the Army after the attacks on 9/11, thought that his experience would be helpful. Huyhn, meanwhile, said that he could not get the plight of the Ukrainian people out of his mind.
“I know it wasn’t my problem, but there was that gut feeling that I felt I had to do something,” Huynh said before he left. “Two weeks after the war began, it kept eating me up inside and it just felt wrong. I was losing sleep. … All I could think about was the situation in Ukraine.”
During their captivity, the two men formed a friendship over their home state and their determination to help Ukraine. Drueke was able to have limited contact with family and friends while in DPR. If Huynh had contact with his family during that time, it hasn’t been reported.
It is unclear when exactly the two men will return to the U.S. The U.S. State Department has not issued a comment about their release.