FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 29, 2022
Contact: Dianna Shaw, 205-764-3434, firstname.lastname@example.org
Captured U.S. Citizen Calls Mother from Donetsk Region, Ukraine
Alex Drueke, former U.S. soldier being held captive by Russian-backed forces in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, telephoned his mother directly on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. They spoke for just under 10 minutes.
“He sounded tired and stressed, and he was clearly reciting some things he had been made to practice or read, but it was wonderful to hear his voice and know he’s alive and alright,” his mother, Bunny Drueke, said.
In the call, Drueke seemed to be prompted to state several times that his captors were anxious to begin negotiations for his release. These statements did not specify any terms or conditions, nor with whom negotiations should commence.
“In between these statements we were able to exchange personal words,” Mrs. Drueke said. “He wanted to make sure his dog was doing well, that I was holding up. I told him I was doing everything I knew to do to help get him and Andy [Huynh] released.”
Drueke told her that he is spending most of the time in isolation but has food, water, and bedding.
“We hope this is all true. Our family is greatly relieved that the Russian government seems to be using their influence to see that Alex is being treated humanely as a Prisoner of War, which he and Andy most certainly are,” Dianna Shaw, Drueke’s aunt and family spokesperson, said.
Drueke told his mother he had not had contact with Andy Huynh for several days. It is assumed that Huynh is also being held in solitary confinement.
On Saturday, June 25 Drueke’s captors telephoned the State Department and seemingly prompted him to make statements that he was being treated humanely and that his captors were anxious to begin negotiations for his and Huynh’s release. On Tuesday, June 28 this occurred again, from the same telephone number which was a Russian exchange, with Drueke making similar statements. Later in the day, Mrs. Drueke received a call from the same phone number and chose to answer it. “I can’t describe how glad I am that I did,” she said.
Russian state-run media outlets report having spoken with Drueke. “He warned me when he went to Iraq, and again when he arrived in Ukraine, that if he ever were to be captured that he might be made to say things to remain safe,” Mrs. Drueke explained. “He told me the only thing I should ever believe him saying is ‘I love you, Mom.’”
President Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials have spoken publicly about Drueke and Huynh over the past several days, calling them heroes and vowing to work for their release.
“We are grateful the Ukrainian government is standing behind Alex and Andy,” Mrs. Shaw said. “These men put their lives on the line to help shore up Ukraine’s democracy.”
The Drueke family continues to receive regular briefings from the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Embassy to Ukraine (located in Poland), the International Committee of the Red Cross, their congressional representatives, and other organizations.
The State Department confirmed that Drueke and Huynh are being held in the Donetsk region, a troublesome area from a diplomatic standpoint. Russia and the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) currently control the majority of Donetsk, having captured the southern and northern parts, including the city of Mariupol. The U.S. does not recognize the sovereignty of the DPR.
Drueke left the U.S. in mid-April, entering Poland legally and making contact with Ukrainian forces from there to volunteer. He moved from unit to unit, helping train Ukrainian soldiers in using the equipment they were receiving from other nations.
Mrs. Drueke received a phone call on June 13 from another member of the unit her son had been with to inform her the unit had come under fire and scattered, and that Drueke and Huynh were as of yet unaccounted for. Two days later, photos and videos began surfacing on Ukrainian and Russian social media showing the two men in captivity.