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Alabamians held as POWs in Russia-Ukraine war freed

Two Alabamians who were captured by Russian forces in Ukraine have been freed, U.S. Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) and Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) announced Wednesday.

Trinity resident Andy Huynh and Alexander Drueke of Tuscaloosa, veterans of the U.S. military who were  reported missing in June, were released as part of a prisoner exchange. The two had been serving alongside Ukrainian forces to fend off the Russian invasion.

“The family of Andy Huynh has informed my office that the two veterans have been freed from their captivity in eastern Ukraine,” said Aderholt in a release. “My office is working to get more information from the Department of State about the health of these men and how soon they will be brought home to their families in the U.S.”

Aderholt, a member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, met with Huynh’s family this month to discuss the efforts to locate him.

“I want to say how thankful and relieved I am that they have been freed,” he said. “Having met with Joy and Darla Black, I know they are beyond relieved and excited for this news. I know we all look forward to seeing them back safely, on American soil.”

Huynh and Drueke are undergoing a medical evaluation at the U.S. Embassy in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. The Saudi government released a statement Wednesday detailing its humanitarian efforts to engage Ukrainian and Russian officials regarding the prisoner swap.

Aderholt and Sewell had remained in routine contact with the U.S. Department of State in an attempt to gain information regarding the veterans’ whereabouts.

“Today, I was informed that Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh have been freed from captivity and will soon return to the United States,” said Sewell. “Words cannot express my joy and relief at this wonderful news. I have been deeply inspired by the strength and resilience of Bunny Drueke and Dianna Shaw as we work to bring these two veterans home.

“We are all so grateful that Alex and Andy will soon be back on American soil and reunited with their families.”

Drueke’s mother, Lois “Bunny” Drueke, and his aunt, Dianna Shaw, released a joint statement celebrating the Army veteran’s freeing from captivity.

“We are thrilled to announce that Alex and Andy are free. They are safely in the custody of the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia and after medical checks and debriefing they will return to the States,” their statement read. “We deeply appreciate everyone’s prayers and especially the cooperation and support of Rep. Sewell and the U.S. Department of State.”

Dylan Smith is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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