An Alabama Army veteran who was captured in Ukraine while voluntarily helping the country fight off Russian invaders spoke to his mother on Tuesday and said his captors were “eager to begin negotiations for his release,” according to his family.
Alex Drueke did not communicate any demands from his captors or indicate when negotiations should begin during the 10-minute chat with his mother, Lois “Bunny” Drueke said, in a statement Wednesday from her and her aunt, Dianna. Shaw.
But Drueke’s mention of possible negotiations for his release came after the head of Russia’s Donetsk territory in Ukraine – where he is being held – said he had no plans to trade him. or another captured Alabama veteran against Russian POWs.
Bunny Drueke also said Wednesday that her son “looked tired and stressed, and he was clearly reciting some of the things that he had been led to practice or read, but it was wonderful to hear his voice and know that ‘He is alive and well’. She added that he described spending most of his time in captivity but had food, water and bedding, and he repeatedly asked questions about the welfare of his dog, a mastiff named Diesel.
Additionally, Alex Drueke, 40, said he has not spoken with fellow Alabama inmate in Donetsk, Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh. He presumed Huynh, 27, was also being held in solitary confinement.
“I told him I was doing everything I know to help get him and Andy released,” Bunny Drueke added.
Alex Drueke served two combat tours with the US military in Iraq – leaving him with post-traumatic stress disorder – before arriving in Ukraine via Poland in April, according to his mother. He was teaching Ukrainian soldiers how to use weapons they had received from other countries in their fight against the Russian invasion, which began in February.
Tuesday’s conversation was the first communication between mother and son since June 8, when he texted her and told her he would be out of reach for the next few days. A member of Drueke’s unit later called his mother and told her that he and Huynh had been captured by Russian forces in a June 9 battle north of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. .
He and Huynh, who previously served in the US Marines, were taken to a detention center in Donetsk, where Russia’s moratorium on the death penalty is not in effect. The Kremlin said both men were at risk of execution, after a court in Donetsk sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan national to death who were caught fighting for Ukraine.
Drueke spoke with the US State Department before the follow-up conversation with his mother.
A Russian state news agency published an interview on Wednesday showing Drueke recounting how his only combat experience in Ukraine occurred on the day of his capture.
“I didn’t fire a shot,” Drueke said, according to Reuters news agency, which described his remarks as an apparent appeal for clemency. “Hopefully that will play a part in the pain I get or don’t get.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said his government will do everything it can to ensure the safe return of Drueke and Huynh, calling the American couple ‘heroes’ for volunteering to help his country fight Russia.
“We are grateful to the Ukrainian government for supporting Alex and Andy,” Shaw’s statement said Wednesday.