Veteran, being held captive in Ukraine, able to call mother again
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Alex Drueke, former U.S. soldier being held captive by Russian-backed forces, was able to telephone his mother again and update Lois “Bunny” Drueke and a case manager at the U.S. Department of State on his situation.
Drueke and fellow American Andy Huynh have been declared Prisoners of War by Ukrainian government spokespeople, according to Dianna Shaw, Drueke’s aunt.
“Several things he said seem to indicate they are still in the Donetsk region of Ukraine,” Mrs. Drueke said about Thursday’s phone call. “When he was able to call two weeks ago, he said they had been moved to an actual prison, so we weren’t sure if they had maybe been relocated to Russia. But now I don’t think they have,” she said.
“Alex mentioned the nearby bombing of a water filtration plant that left a lot of Donetsk without running water, so they have been given bottled water the past couple of days,” Mrs. Drueke said.
“He said when he and others are being allowed time outside, they can hear bombing in the distance, but it has ‘never been really close’,” Mrs. Drueke said. “And he asked if the news in America was showing that ‘people are dying here in Donetsk and Donbas’,” she said. “Putting all this together, it sounds to me like they are still in Ukraine.”
The U.S. Department of State has not yet confirmed that Drueke and Huynh remain in the Donetsk region, according to Shaw.
Alex Drueke’s mother learned more about Alex’s and Andy’s conditions during the Thursday conversation. “Alex just sounded stronger and more like himself than ever before,” she said.
“He said he and Andy [Huynh] are still in a cell together with a third American,” Dianna Shaw said. “Alex didn’t give his name, but said he was born in Rwanda and has American citizenship, and that he is also ‘doing fine’,” she said.
“Alex said they keep each other’s spirits up by playing ‘mind games’ and that they had improvised a chess board out of trash,” she said.
Drueke pressed his mother for details about the amount of coverage of the war and of their captivity in the American press. “While it sounds just like Alex to want to know about this, we also assume this is something his captors wanted him to ask because he kept returning to the subject throughout the call,” Ms. Shaw said.
“Alex made a couple of statements that clearly were provided to him and intended to portray Russia as non-aggressors in the conflict,” Ms. Shaw added. The family will not be repeating these to the press. “POWs are often used for propaganda purposes, so we want to remind the public to be skeptical of any statements the men make in Russian-generated media,” she added.
The families of Drueke and Huynh continue to be briefed frequently by government officials and supported by NGOs that serve families of hostages and detainees.
Drueke and Huynh were serving in the Ukrainian Army when the unit they were assigned to came under heavy fire on June 9, 2022. The families first learned the men were missing in action on June 13, and received evidence of their captivity two days later.
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