Alabamians captured in Ukraine share their experience in a Russian prison and their journey home

Former Russian captives open up: Andy Huynh and Alex Drueke speak to WAFF
Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 8:47 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 3, 2022 at 11:33 AM CDT

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Two Alabama men said they’re more like brothers after being held captive by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine for three months.

Alex Drueke, of Tuscaloosa and Andy Huynh live just over 100 miles away from each other but they didn’t meet until they were serving in the Ukraine army early this year.

They were captured by Russian forces on June 9 near Khariv during battle. Drueke says they can’t release exactly what led up to their capture but he says he was held by those original captors in Ukraine for about 24 hours before they were moved to Russia for ‘intense interrogation’ that could lead to beatings. That lasted about a week. They were taken to the Donetsk region for another month for more ‘intensive interrogations.’

They say they felt very alone, they were being held in solitary confinement. They were constantly worried the other was in some sort of peril because execution was always on the table.

“I was losing hope,” said Huynh. “The constant unknown, the constant threat of being executed was a constant for me.”

Their outlooks started to change when they were moved. Their last stop was a former Ukraine prison with other captives. They say their saving grace was being held in a cell together.

“We still had some dark days and some dark times but at least we had each other nearby to say ‘hey, man I need your help’ or ‘I can’t sleep, will you stay up with me’ or ‘I’m bored I need to keep my mind busy,’” explained Drueke.

They had very little idea of what was happening in the outside world. They could only gauge the level of the war by the bombs they could hear near the prison and by the sounds from their neighbor prisoner’s television. They could hear the reports by Russian-backed television newscasts, but they knew it wasn’t totally credible.

They didn’t know what exactly with the war, let along their own situations, even though they heard rumors of negotiations for their release.

One day they were put on a plane without any notice. Their minds were racing about where they could be going. They thought they could be released, moved to a different prison camp or executed.

Thankfully it was the best-case scenario. They were released on Sept. 23.

“Overall it was about 24 hours of travel from the prison to being released. It wasn’t until for most of us the plane was taking off. We were like we might be being released,” Drueke said while laughing.

He says even though they’re safe at home, he’s still worried about the people in Ukraine as the war rages on.

“The war is not over yet. There are westerners still over there and Ukraine still needs our support. They are killing it in this war. They’re making really positive strides in this war but it’s not over yet.”

Drueke and Huynh are not releasing all the details of their capture or release just yet.

They’re meeting with the Department of Homeland Security this week as the U.S. government collects evidence on war crimes committed by the Russians.

Drueke and Huynh say they don’t want to say too much and hurt the investigation.