HomeWorldInside Saudi Arabia's role in releasing American POWs from Putin's prison

Inside Saudi Arabia’s role in releasing American POWs from Putin’s prison

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Two Americans and eight other former prisoners of war from the Ukraine war have been freed by Russia, thanks to the intervention of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“This is a fantastic result and shows the importance of continuing to work towards results through engagement and dialogue,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

In an exclusive interview with Fox News, the foreign minister detailed the months of negotiations that took place for the release of prisoners by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The two Americans, 40-year-old Army veteran Alexander John-Robert Drueke and 27-year-old Marine Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, both from Alabama, went to Ukraine to help defend it against the Russian invasion.

They were captured by Russian proxies in June during a shootout in Ukraine’s Donbas region and held in Russia as prisoners of war. They, along with five British citizens, a Moroccan, a Swede and a Croat, were released Wednesday as part of a deal that also returned Russian prisoners of war captured by Ukraine.

Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, left, and Alexander John-Robert Drueke, two US military veterans who disappeared in June while fighting with Ukrainian forces against the Russian invasion, have been freed after three months in captivity, relatives said Wednesday.
(Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily, left; and Lois “Bunny” Drueke/Dianna Shaw via AP, File)


“His Royal Highness was able to convince President Putin that this is a worthwhile humanitarian gesture, and this is how we achieved this result,” bin Farhan said.

The chancellor also said that Crown Prince bin Salman he spent months on the issue to free the men and establish a credible channel of communication between the two sides.

“His Royal Highness has always been convinced that dialogue is the main way to resolve differences, and he made this quite clear from the beginning of this conflict when he approached both President Putin and President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy that we believe there should be a negotiated settlement, and we continue to work towards it. And I think that attitude allowed for a really transparent discussion and could facilitate this outcome,” bin Farhan said.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman smiles as he meets with President Biden at the Al Salman Royal Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 15, 2022.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman smiles as he meets with President Biden at the Al Salman Royal Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 15, 2022.
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

He described a long and detailed negotiation that resulted in a prisoner swap, with Ukraine also freeing 55 Russian prisoners of war and a pro-Putin member of the Ukrainian parliament who was being held on charges of treason.

“Issues like this are always tremendously complex because there are a number of moving parts,” bin Farhan said. “There were a lot of issues that needed to be addressed. There were other prisoners, Ukrainian and Russian captives, that needed to be exchanged. So there were a lot of details that needed to be worked out and worked out.”


“You need to give him time. You need to give him patience. And this is, I think, what the crown prince really put into this.”

The families of the Americans issued a joint statement saying: “We are delighted to announce that Alex and Andy are free. They are safe in the custody of the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia and after medical checks and the report, they will return to the United States. “

“I feel very good,” the foreign minister said. “I look forward to seeing the photos of them reunited with their loved ones when they return to the United States and Alabama.”

A Ukrainian tank runs over an infantryman during a training exercise near Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, on May 9, 2022.

A Ukrainian tank runs over an infantryman during a training exercise near Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, on May 9, 2022.
(John Moore/Getty Images)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement that read in part: “I hope that these American citizens will be reunited with their families. We also thank our Saudi partners for helping to spearhead this humanitarian effort.”

UK Prime Minister Liz Truss tweeted that the launch was “very welcome news” ending “months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families”.

“Prime Minister Truss is someone I respect very much,” bin Farhan said. “We are confident that through his tenure as Prime Minister we will further strengthen the ties between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.”


He also said that bin Salman’s role as mediator between Putin and Zelenskyy could lay the groundwork for expanded talks that he hopes will ultimately lead to an end to the war.

“We believe that compromise is important, that working towards a negotiated agreement is essential, an agreement that also, of course, respects Ukraine and Ukraine’s sovereignty and addresses the concerns of all parties in a way that avoids further bloodshed. I think that, in the end, the most important thing is that we stop the bloodshed and stop the suffering of civilians who are inevitably affected by any conflict,” he said.

Fox producer Laura Prabucki contributed to this report.

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