Ten prisoners, including Americans, were released in a Russian-Ukrainian exchange

Ten prisoners of war, including US and British citizens, have been transferred to Saudi Arabia as part of an exchange between Russia and Ukraine, Saudi officials said on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said on Twitter that Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, brokered the release.

The timing is remarkable, coming just hours after Russian President Vladimir V. Putin stepped up the war effort in Ukraine by announcing plans to call up some 300,000 combat reservs and send the means West undertakes a mission to assist Ukraine with a concealed threat to use nuclear weapons.

The detention of foreigners in Ukraine has alarmed human rights advocates and Western governments, raising questions about protections for thousands of foreign-born fighters serving in the country. country, some of them were taken prisoner on the battlefield.

Among those released was Alex Drueke, 39, a former US Army sergeant who served two tours in Iraq, according to his aunt, Dianna Shaw. Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, a former US Marine, has also been released, according to Ms. Shaw, who said she texted Huynh’s family. “We are extremely grateful,” Ms. Shaw said.

Mr Drueke and Mr Huynh disappeared together when their platoon came under “massive fire” on June 9, prompting all members of the squad to back down except for the two of them, according to a statement from the family. Mr. Drueke’s family. They had volunteered to fight in Ukraine and were captured near the city of Kharkiv on June 9 while fighting with other foreign soldiers.

Prime Minister Liz Truss said that five British nationals who had been held in Ukraine by a Russian-backed proxy organization had been released, calling it “extremely welcome news”. Ms. Truss thanked President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and Saudi Arabia for helping to secure the release of the citizens.

“Russia must stop the cruel exploitation of prisoners of war and civilians for political purposes,” she said.

In addition to the United States and Britain, the released prisoners came from Morocco, Sweden and Croatia. The Saudi ministry said it was working to return those released.

Robert Jenrick, a Conservative member of the British Parliament, wrote on Twitter that Aiden Aslin was among the released prisoners. Mr. Aslin’s hometown in Newark is in Mr. Jenrick’s county.

Mr Aslin is one of three men – including Shaun Pinner, a British citizen, and Brahim Saadoun, a Moroccan – who were seized by a court in eastern Ukraine in June, prosecutors have charged three This man is a mercenary and terrorists seeking to violently overthrow the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, one of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine that Russia has recognized.

Mr. Jenrick wrote: “Aiden’s return brings an end to days of painful turmoil for Aiden’s loving family in Newark, who endured day by day of the sham trial but never lost hope. ,” wrote Mr. Jenrick. “When they unite as a family again, they can finally be at peace.”

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