By Kylie Atwood and AnneClaire Stapleton, CNN
Two American veterans and five British citizens 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.
Family members of Americans Alexander John-Robert Drueke, 39, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, from Hartselle, Alabama confirmed they had been freed. They were captured while fighting for Ukraine north of Kharkiv in June.
British Prime Minister Liz Truss tweeted that five British citizens had been released.
“Hugely welcome news that five British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine are being safely returned, ending months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families,” Truss said.
Drueke’s aunt released a statement confirming the release of the two Americans.
“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.
This story is breaking and will be updated.
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