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Tuscaloosa soldier captured in Ukraine says he’s “okay”

Russia Ukraine
Alexei Alexandrov/AP
/
AP
A view of an apartment building damaged during shelling in Donetsk, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)

The family of a former U.S. soldier from Tuscaloosa being held captive in Ukraine says he’s made contact. A release from the family of Alex Drueke says he was able to send a direct communication to his family over the weekend. Drueke’s captors reportedly reached the U.S. State Department by telephone and allowed him to speak.

“It was basically the same message as in the short video where he addressed his mother - saying he is OK, he is receiving food and water and has shelter and bedding,” said Dianna Shaw, Drueke’s aunt.

Former Marine Andy Huynh is also believed to be held captive with Drueke.

“We want to believe all these things, and it is Russia's responsibility to make sure it's all true,” said Mrs. Shaw. “Having Alex call and say these things tells me that Russia knows the world is watching how they treat the two men. Russia has the influence over their surrogates to see that Alex and Andy are given humane treatment as POWs and eventually released unharmed.”

The State Department confirmed that the men are being held in the Donetsk region. 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.

In February this year, the U.S. leveed sanctions over Russia’s recognition of the sovereignty of the DPR. The document, among other things, established a ban for Americans to finance and invest in the DPR or trade with them.

“I’m just glad to know Alex is alive and to know for sure where he is,” Mrs. Drueke said. “Every ‘unknown’ that becomes a ‘known’ is one step closer to his release.”

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.

Drueke and Huynh are believed to be the first Americans captured by Russian forces since the war began in late February.

Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
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