US captives Alex Drueke, Andy Huynh ‘prayed for death’ on brutal ride from Ukraine

Even after three months in prison, which included threats of execution, physical torture, solitary confinement and food shortages, it was the ride to freedom that nearly broke US military veteran Alex Drucke free Last week along with nine other prisoners who went to help Ukraine fight Russian invaders.

His hands were tied. His head was covered with a plastic bag, and the packing tape holding him was secured so tightly that it left spots on his forehead. Drucke said he and fellow US prisoner Andy Hyun reached their border in this state during transit, which took place from eastern Ukraine to an airport in Russia in a series of vehicles that were surrounded by armed guards.

“We went through it all and every time we thought we could die, we accepted that we could die, we were ready to die when it came, that ride was the only time each of us had Had freely prayed to death to get it together,” Drucke told the Associated Press in an interview on Friday.

“The mental and emotional torture of the last 24 hours in captivity was the worst,” he said.

Druke, 40, is recovering: The swelling on his head is decreasing and he’s trying to regain some of the 30 pounds he lost by eating a poor diet. But terrifying memories remain, and he is unsure what comes next other than trying to focus attention on fellow prisoners who remain in Russian hands.

Alex Drucke arrives at the TWA Hotel on September 23, 2022 in New York.
Alex Drucke joins the US Army Reserves after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“The war is not over,” he said, speaking at the home he shares with his mother and other relatives in Tuscaloosa.

Druke and HuinhoA 27-year-old fellow military veteran from Alabama, he was among hundreds of Americans who quickly traveled to Ukraine to help in the fight against Russia.

On 9 June, Drucke was captured during what was described as a reconnaissance mission involving the International Army of Ukraine, made up of foreign volunteers.

“Everyone else managed to make it back to base safe,” he said.

Russian soldier Both men were taken to their camp, and then taken to Russia for “deep interrogation”. Refusing to go into specifics, Drucke said the treatment was brutal.

alex drucke
Alex Drucke was one of 10 men released on September 21 in a deal brokered by Saudi Arabia.

“Every single one of our human rights has been violated,” he said. “We were tortured.”

The men were taken back to a “black site” in Ukraine Donetsk For an additional questioning of about a month, he said. He was eventually moved to an isolation cellblock within a former Ukrainian prison. There, Drucke and Huynh were forced to record propaganda statements for a Russian video camera with the soldiers in the room.

“On the positive side, there were times they locked us in a closet, tied up and blindfolded … on each other,” he said. “It was the first time we talked in weeks at the time.”

Eventually, after several weeks of imprisonment, which included a number of threats, it became clear that something — either a release, a prison transfer or execution — was in the works, said Drucke, who was in the US after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Joined the Army Reserve. 2001, and served two tours in Iraq.

“We knew something was happening because our normal routine was getting messed up and they were letting us take all our personal belongings out of the cell,” he said.

But still, the mental torture continued, he said. “A guard said twice, ‘I’m pretty sure you guys are going to be killed,'” he said.

Instead, they were part of a group of 10 men who were released on September 21 in a deal brokered by Saudi Arabia. Others released with him were from Croatia, Morocco, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

He said no one rested until the plane was in the air and a Saudi Arabian official explained what was happening. Landing in New York after a flight from Saudi Arabia, Drucke said that he and Huynh met at A. was done by homeland security officer From an office that investigates war crimes.

Press aides for Homeland Security did not immediately return an email seeking comment, but UN human rights investigators have said Ukrainian prisoners of war are facing “systematic” abuse by Russian captives that includes torture.

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