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

“This is a fantastic achievement 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 led to the release of the 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 of Alabama, went to Ukraine to defend it from Russian invasion.

They were captured by Russian delegates in June during a firefight 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 on 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 went missing in June while fighting with Ukrainian forces against the Russian invasion, were released 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 managed to convince President Putin that this is a humanitarian gesture worthwhile, and that is how we achieved this,” said bin Farhan.

The foreign minister also said Crown Prince bin Salman spent months on the issue to free the men and create 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 clear the beginning of this conflict when he contacted both President Putin and the president. [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy that we believe there should be a negotiated agreement and we continue to work towards that. And I think that attitude allowed for a really transparent discussion and was able to facilitate this result, “said bin Farhan.

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

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

He described a lengthy and detailed negotiation that resulted in a prisoner swap, with Ukraine also releasing 55 Russian POWs and a pro-Putin member of the Ukrainian parliament being held on treason charges.

“Problems like this are always tremendously complex because there are a number of moving parts,” said bin Farhan. “There were many issues that needed to be addressed. There were other prisoners, Ukrainians and Russians, that needed to be exchanged. So, there were many details that needed to be worked out and worked on.


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

The families of the Americans released a joint statement, saying, “We are thrilled 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 debriefing they will return to the US.”

“I feel great,” the foreign minister said. “I can’t wait to see photos of them reunited with their loved ones when they return to the United States and Alabama.”

A Ukrainian tank flies over an infantryman during an exercise near Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Ukraine on May 9, 2022.

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

Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement stating in part, “I look forward to these US citizens reuniting with their families. We also thank our Saudi partners for helping to lead this humanitarian initiative.”

British Prime Minister Liz Truss tweeted that the release was “extremely welcome news” ending “months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families.”

“Prime Minister Truss is someone I respect a lot,” said bin Farhan. “We are confident that through your prime minister we will further strengthen the ties between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UK.”


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

“We believe that commitment is important, that working towards a negotiated solution is fundamental, a solution that also obviously respects the sovereignty of Ukraine and Ukraine and addresses the concerns of all parties in a way that prevents further spreading. In the end, the most important thing is to 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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