U.S. veterans Alex Drueke, Andy Huynh freed in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

Two U.S. military veterans who had been held captive in northeastern Ukraine by Russian-backed separatists have been released with the assistance of Saudi Arabia, the government in Riyadh and the family of one of the veterans said Wednesday.

Alexander J. Drueke and Andy Tai Huynh, both of Alabama, are among a group of at least hundreds of Westerners who have traveled to Ukraine to fight against the Russian invasion. Drueke served in the U.S. Army while Huynh is a Marine Corps veteran.

Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia called the families of the veterans on Wednesday morning to notify them, said Dianna Shaw, Drueke’s aunt. Drueke’s mother spoke to him for about 10 minutes, and said he appeared to be in good condition. He was expected to receive a medical screening later in the day.

“He sounded clear-headed, with clear speech,” Shaw said. “He sounded like himself.”

Shaw expressed amazement with how the release had come about, even as they awaited additional details.

“I never dreamed that it was a possibility that the Saudi government would be able to do something like this,” she said. “But any port in a storm.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of troops in an address to the nation on Sept. 21, framing the move as an attempt to defend Russian sovereignty against a West that seeks to use Ukraine as a tool to “divide and destroy Russia.” Follow our live updates here.

The fight: A successful Ukrainian counteroffensive has forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in recent days, as troops fled cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.

Annexation referendums: Staged referendums, which would be illegal under international law, are set to take place from Sept. 23 to 27 in the breakaway Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, according to Russian news agencies. Another staged referendum will be held by the Moscow-appointed administration in Kherson starting Friday.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can help support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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