Alexander Drueke (L) and Andy Huynh pose for a photo at an Alabama bar. The pair were released from Russian captivity last week after being captured in June while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces. Photo courtesy of Dianna Shaw/Release
Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Two U.S. military veterans who were captured by Russian forces while fighting alongside Ukraine have returned home, according to a statement from one of their families.
Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh arrived in their native Alabama on Saturday after months in Russian captivity, Dianna Shaw, Drueke's aunt, said in a statement issued Sunday on their behalf.
The pair had volunteered to fight with the Ukrainian army when they were captured by Russian forces near Kharkiv on June 9.
Their release was announced late last week in an exchange between Russia and Ukraine that was mediated by Saudi officials. Five Britons, a Moroccan, a Swede and a Croatian were also released into Ukrainian custody in the agreement.
The two Americans returned home following a medical clearance conducted in Saudi Arabia that preceded their flight from Riyadh to New York City.
Upon their arrival home in Alabama, Huynh requested a meal from his favorite fast-food restaurant and a haircut in order to look presentable to attend church with his fiancé, Joy Black, while Drueke asked for a beer and to see his dog, Diesel.
"The men are in excellent spirits," Shaw said. "Now, our immediate focus is on their physical health."
She said they will now undergo thorough medical evaluations after which they will sit for interviews with U.S. and Ukrainian government officials to document their treatment in Russia's captivity.
Ukrainian officials have said thousands of foreign fighters have joined their military's ranks since Russia invaded their country in late February.
Among them are some Americans who have left to fight in Europe despite U.S. officials warning them not to and to find other ways to support Ukraine's war effort.