‘We prayed for death’: 2 American veterans freed from Russian captivity in Ukraine describe torture

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Two American soldiers who were captured by Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine have described the torture they endured in several interviews since their release in September.

Andy Huynh, 27, and Alexander Drueke, 39, who volunteered in the Ukrainian army, entered Ukraine in early April. They were taken as prisoners in June during a firefight in the village of Izbytske and held captive in the Donbas region.

In September, they were released to the U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia as part of a prisoner exchange.

The soldiers from Alabama, who spent 105 days in Russian captivity, told ABC News they were held in a “black site,” where the had to endure daily torture. According to the pair, they lived on dirty water and spoiled bread and were interrogated, beaten, deprived of sleep and forced to stand or sit on their knees while blindfolded for hours.

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“We prayed for death. We just wanted to die. We just wanted it to end,” Huynh said.

Huynh, a Vietnamese American who served in the U.S. Marines, was studying at Calhoun Community College when Russia invaded Ukraine. He had been making wedding plans with his fiancée before he traveled to Ukraine.

“The U.S. government will not be backing me up on this, and I was aware of that,” Huynh told ABC News. “It scared me, but I still knew I had to go.”

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During their captivity, Huynh and Drueke were also forced to make propaganda videos and partake in interviews, wherein they were forced to praise Russia. If they had not followed the script, they were to be raped or killed.

Drueke, 40, retired from the U.S. Army after 12 years. He was chosen as the duo’s spokesperson and was allowed to make calls to his family in Tuscaloosa under duress. According to Drueke, the captors had cracked four of his ribs.

The captors believed Huynh and Drueke were CIA operatives, and they demanded information from them.

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“They really thought that we had been sent by our government, or had a large amount of government support,” Drueke told The Washington Post. “They really wanted to make sure we weren’t lying about that — and they had their ways of doing that.”

When they were being transported to prison, their eyes were wrapped with packing tape and their bodies were stacked in a vehicle on top of other prisoners. In prison, they reportedly suffered through solitary confinement.

“When we weren’t physically abused, we were struggling with severe boredom,” Huynh told CNN.

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The men said they had no regrets, but they feel guilt for surviving and having been freed when many remain in Russian captivity.

“We feel guilty that we got traded and they are still there. That’s one of the worst feelings you can have,” Huynh told ABC News.

Drueke said that he is willing to return to Ukraine to help rebuild once the conflict ends. As for Huynh, he will be focusing on his family and his obligations at home. Both men believe that Ukraine will be victorious over Russia.

“It sounds trite, but we were given a second chance on life,” Drueke told The Washington Post. “I feel like our experiences, if we handle them the right way, we potentially have a lot to give the world.”


Featured Image via ABC News