FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2022
Contact: Dianna Shaw, 205-764-3434, firstname.lastname@example.org
Captured U.S. Citizen Makes Contact with State Department
Alex Drueke, former U.S. soldier being held captive in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, was able to send a direct communication to his family over the weekend. Drueke’s captors 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, his aunt.
“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,” she said.
Also over the weekend, President Zelenskyy spoke publicly about Drueke and Huynh, calling them heroes and vowing to work for their release in an interview for the Aspen Ideas Festival (source: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/zelenskyy-return-americans-captured-fighting-russia-war-rcna35139).
“It’s very encouraging to hear the Ukrainian government is committed to securing Alex’s and Andy’s release,” said Drueke’s mother, Bunny Drueke. “I want to thank President Zelenskyy for taking their situation seriously. Alex told me repeatedly how impressed he was with the bravery and determination of the Ukrainian people to hold onto their democracy,” Mrs. Drueke said.
The U.S. State Department continues to keep all channels of communication open, and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has discussed the situation with the Kremlin, according to the Drueke family who receive daily briefings.
“Alex and Andy are Ukrainian Army volunteers with U.S. citizenship,” Mrs. Shaw explained. “Since the U.S. is ‘on the sidelines’ of the war, it’s up to the Ukrainian government to take the lead on any potential negotiations or prisoner exchanges,” Mrs. Shaw said.
The State Department confirmed that the men 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. 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.
Mrs. Drueke last spoke with him by telephone on June 5. She received a text from Drueke on June 8 when he informed her he would be “going dark for almost all of tomorrow. Possibly the next day too.” She received a phone call from another member of the unit in the early hours of Monday, June 13 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.