U.S. captives ‘prayed for death’ on brutal ride from Ukraine

Even after three months of captivity that covered execution threats, physical torture, solitary confinement and meals deprivation, it was the experience to freedom that almost broke Alex Drueke, a U.S. Navy veteran released ultimate week with 9 other prisoners who went to assist Ukraine fight off Russian invaders.

His hands have been sure. His head turned into protected by means of a plastic bag, and the packing tape preserving it in region turned into secured so tightly it it brought on welts on his brow. Drueke said he and fellow American prisoner Andy Huynh reached their restrict on this nation throughout the transit, which befell in a chain of motors from jap Ukraine to an airport in Russia that become surrounded by means of armed guards.

“For all we went through and all the times we concept we might die, we common that we might die, we were ready to die when it came, that experience was the best time that every people independently prayed for dying just to get it over with,” Drueke told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.“The intellectual and emotional torture of these closing 24 hours in captivity, that turned into the worst,” he stated.

Drueke, forty, is healing: The swelling is going down on his head and he’s seeking to regain a number of the 30 pounds (thirteen.6 kilograms) he figures he misplaced ingesting a bad weight-reduction plan. But lousy recollections remain, and he’s unsure what comes next apart from looking to awareness interest on fellow prisoners who continue to be in Russian fingers.“The war has no longer ended,” he stated, speakme at the home he stocks with his mother and other spouse and children in Tuscaloosa.

Drueke and Huynh, a 27-year-antique fellow army veteran from Alabama, were amongst loads of Americans who went to Ukraine early on to help inside the combat against Russia.

On June nine, they have been captured at some stage in what Drueke defined as a reconnaissance assignment related to Ukraine’s international legion, composed of foreign volunteers.

“Everyone else controlled to make it lower back to the base secure,” he stated.

Russian infantrymen took the two guys to their camp, and then into Russia for “in depth interrogation.” While declining to enter specifics, Drueke stated the remedy turned into brutal.“On the high-quality side, there had been instances they would put us in a closet, certain and blindfolded, … While they had been anticipating some thing reporter to reveal up, and it gave Andy and I only a few seconds to whisper things to and fro to check in on every other,” he stated. “It became the primary time we had talked in weeks at that point.”

Eventually, after weeks of confinement that blanketed multiple threats, it have become apparent that some thing — both a release, a prison transfer or execution — became inside the works, stated Drueke, who joined the U.S. Army Reserve after the phobia assaults of September 11, 2001, and served excursions in Iraq.“We knew some thing become going on due to the fact our normal ordinary changed into being skewed and that they had been having us clean all of our private stuff out of the cell,” he stated.

But even then, the mental torture persevered, he said. “One of the guards said a couple of times, ‘I’m pretty certain you guys are becoming carried out,’” he said.

Instead, they were part of a set of 10 men who have been released Sept. 21 in a deal brokered by using Saudi Arabia. The others who were launched with them were from Croatia, Morocco, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

No one at ease till the aircraft changed into inside the air and an legit from Saudi Arabia defined what changed into happening, he stated. Landing in New York after a flight from Saudi Arabia, Drueke said he and Huynh were met through a Homeland Security authentic from an workplace that investigates warfare crimes.

Press aides with Homeland Security didn’t right away go back an electronic mail searching for comment, however the U.N. Human rights investigators have said Ukrainian prisoners of struggle seem like going through “systematic” mistreatment with the aid of Russian captors that consists of torture.

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