Two Americans among 10 prisoners released to Saudi Arabia from Ukraine

A plane carrying 10 prisoners of war arrived from Russia to Riyadh on Wednesday following successful mediation efforts by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) and sources familiar with the matter.

The Saudi Crown Prince had been in direct contact with the Kremlin and Ukraine as part of the mediation efforts for the release of the prisoners, which included five British citizens, one Moroccan, one Swede, one Croat, and two Americans.

The prisoners were captured in what the Russians call separatist regions in Ukraine. They will now be transferred to their home countries, the SPA reported.

The two Americans released were US Army veteran Alexander Drueke, 39, and 27-year-old Marine Corps veteran Andy Huynh, family members told Reuters. They were captured in June while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces near Kharkiv.

“I never dreamed that it was a possibility that the Saudi government would be able to do something like this,” Drueke’s aunt told The Washington Post. “But any port in a storm.”

Al Arabiya English has reached out to the State Department for comment.

UK Prime Minister Liz Truss welcomed the release of five British nationals. “I thank @ZelenskyyUa for his efforts to secure the release of detainees, and Saudi Arabia for their assistance. Russia must end the ruthless exploitation of prisoners of war and civilian detainees for political ends,” she tweeted.

There are ongoing efforts to secure a prisoner swap of 50 Ukrainians in exchange for 200 Russians, including what reports indicate could be one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s close allies, Viktor Medvedchuk. Medvedchuk was captured by Ukrainians in April.

It is unclear whether Wednesday’s prisoner release was part of that specific deal.

In recent weeks, Ukraine launched a counteroffensive and recaptured land taken by Russia in northeast and southern Ukraine, including the towns of Izyum and Kupiansk and around Kharkiv.

On Wednesday, Putin ordered a partial Russian mobilization since World War II and Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 300,000 reservists would be called up to protect what the Kremlin claims are its lands.

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