Americans in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap wondered if death was coming

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Alexander Druk and Andy Tai Huying pondered their uncertain fate as they were brought out of their cells deep in Russian-occupied Ukraine.

Days after their arrest in June, the Kremlin declared: men, both American veterans are suspected war criminals refused to exclude That they could face the death penalty. In a phone call with his aunt on Thursday, Druke said at that moment, “You can go either way”

Aunt Diana Shaw said, “It was one of those moments.”

The American was released Wednesday as part of a prisoner exchange between the governments of Kyiv and Moscow. The Russian government has agreed to release 40-year-old Drueke and his 28-year-old Huynh, along with his eight other foreigners and his 215 Ukrainians who participated in the war for Ukraine. did.fifty-five The Russian fighters, along with the pro-Kremlin Ukrainian opposition politician Viktor Medvechuk, who is so close to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Putin is believed to be the godfather of Medvechuk’s daughter, is in exchange. released.

Americans Freed in Vast Russian-Ukrainian Prisoner Exchanges

Details of sweeping transactions mediated through engagement It continued to drip from the governments of Saudi Arabia and Turkey on Thursday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters at the United Nations General Assembly. In New York where prisoners exchange This is the result of “my diplomatic negotiations” between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, According to transcripts of his comments given by state media, it is a “important step” to end the war that began seven months ago. Erdogan played a key role in brokering a landmark deal that could allow grain exports to resume after the Russian navy blocked Ukraine’s Black Sea ports this summer, but so far. Erdogan was unable to secure a direct meeting between Putin and Zelensky.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose Druk and Huynh are recovering, is also credited with facilitating the release of foreigners.Saudi officials on Thursday Said Efforts of Muhammad indicating his “active role in strengthening humanitarian initiatives.” The U.S. government thanked the crown prince for his efforts to secure the release of the two Americans, but relations between the two nations were questioned by Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, particularly the role of Muhammad. Remains tense over being caught. Plot to kill Saudi-American journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In Russia, some nationalists who saw the deal as a betrayal were outraged. Medvechuk was once seen as a possible replacement for Zelensky if Russian forces succeeded in overthrowing the government in Kyiv and establishing a puppet government. Some of the Ukrainians released in exchange for Medvechuk and other Russians were members of the far-right Azov Regiment, which Putin branded as Nazis.

Ukraine — where the Azov army was cheered their bravery in the blood of Russia Siege of Mariupol – The deal was celebrated.

A senior State Department official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified diplomacy.The move is further evidence of how Russian leaders put themselves ahead of the interests of the Russian people.

“Even if it stays like this [war] Terrible for Ukraine … Terrible for Russians,” the official said. “Putin chose his own futile imperial ambitions over the needs of his people.”

Leader Kirill Budanov Ukraine’s Supreme Military Intelligence Service said some of the released Ukrainians were “very brutally tortured” while in captivity. It is unknown whether Drueke and Huynh survived such conditions. Both show signs of going through stages of physical deterioration that can take time to undo.

Drueke’s aunt said her nephew hasn’t shared much yet Details with his family about how his captors treated him and Huynh.she said Noting that Drueke and Huynh had several “minor, minor, minor health issues” and that they were both “extremely dehydrated,” the family said Drueke and Huynh had moved from Saudi Arabia to Alabama. He pointed out that he did not know exactly when he would be ready to return after a 14-hour flight to .

Images of the release of prisoners of war The video, which aired on German television network Deutsche Welle station, showed a emaciated Druke walking with what appeared to be medical personnel. But he had his own bag.

Former US soldier Druke and Marine Corps veteran Huynh went missing on June 8 while fighting Ukrainian forces near the city of Kharkiv. Druke’s family believes they were moved several times during their captivity and were likely interned in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

According to the show, Druke and Huynn were apparently kept together throughout their captivity. During at least part of their time as prisoners, they were also held in the same cell as Briton John Harding, who was released this week as part of an exchange.

Since being released, American veterans have been sharing apartments in Saudi Arabia as they take the first steps toward recovery. Former POWs are acutely aware that a return to normalcy can be a long road, he said, Shaw.

“He didn’t sound remorseful to me at all. He sounded excited to be home,” Shaw said. He is highly respected by the people.”

Kareem Fahim of Beirut. Robin Dixon and Mary Ilyushina in Riga, Latvia. and John Hudson of New York contributed to this report.

War in Ukraine: What You Need to Know

up to date: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of the military in his September 21 address to the nation, with Western powers seeking to use Ukraine as a “tool to divide and destroy Russia”. framed the move as an attempt to defend Russia’s sovereignty against ” Please follow us Click here for live updates.

Fight: Successful Ukrainian counterattacks have intensified the mass withdrawal of Russian troops in the northeastern Kharkov region in recent days. The army fled the cities and villages it had occupied since the beginning of the war, abandoning large amounts of military equipment.

Annexation Referendum: A staged referendum, illegal under international law, will take place in the separatist Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine from September 23 to 27, according to Russian news outlets. From Friday, another staged referendum will be held by the Kherson government appointed by Moscow.

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