Separatists in eastern Ukraine wanted foreign prisoners of war to be convicted as mercenaries. The men faced the death penalty. Now ten of them are free.
LONDON — Russian-controlled separatists in eastern Ukraine have freed 10 captured foreigners, including five Britons. Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said the men were brought to the kingdom from Russia. Your return trip will be organized from there. The other freedmen came from the USA, Morocco, Sweden and Croatia.
British Prime Minister Liz Truss spoke on Twitter of “very welcome news”. This ended months of uncertainty and suffering for those affected and their families. Among those freed was a 28-year-old Briton who had been sentenced to death in a show trial for mercenary labor, Health Secretary Robert Jenrick said.
According to information from the BBC, the second Briton convicted at the time has also been released. A show trial was also launched against the other three, including two volunteer fighters and an aid worker. A Briton died in separatist captivity in Donetsk. The body was handed over to Ukraine in early September and, according to kyiv, showed signs of torture.
Truss thanked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his efforts and Saudi Arabia for its support. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is said to have brokered the deal. “Russia must end the ruthless exploitation of POWs and civilian prisoners for political purposes,” Truss demanded. The release would have been part of a larger prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine.
US citizens Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh are believed to be among the returnees, according to US media, citing the families. The men from the US state of Alabama were captured in June during fighting in eastern Ukraine. They had joined the Ukrainian troops in the fight against the Russian invaders.