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2 Americans captured by Russian-backed forces in Ukraine freed in prisoner swap

Americans Alexander John-Robert Drueke (L), and Andy Tai Ngoc Huyn, who were fighting alongside Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv, have been missing for nearly a week and there are fears that they may have been captured by Russian forces.

(CNN) — Two American veterans who had been held by Russian-backed forces for months have been released as part of the prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine that was brokered by Saudi Arabia, members of their families confirmed to CNN.

The freed men are Alexander John-Robert Drueke, 39, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, from Hartselle, Alabama. They were captured while fighting for Ukraine north of Kharkiv in June.

“We are thrilled to announce that Alex and Andy are free. 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. We deeply appreciate everyone’s prayers and especially the close communication and support of our elected officials, Ukrainian Ambassador Markarova, and our members of the US embassies in Ukraine and Saudi Arabia and the US Department of State,” said Diana Shaw, a spokesperson for both families and Dreuke’s aunt.

The families did not know that the prisoner exchange was in the works.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the release of 10 prisoners who are Moroccan, US, UK, Swedish and Croatian nationals.

They were “released as part of an exchange of POWs between Russia and Ukraine” and taken to Saudi Arabia, according to a statement from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.