Russia frees 10 foreigners captured in Ukraine after Saudi mediation, says Riyadh

RIYADH: Russia on Wednesday (September 21st) released 10 foreign prisoners of war captured in Ukraine following the mediation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Foreign Ministry announced.

The released prisoners were American, British, Croatian, Moroccan and Swedish nationals, the ministry said in a statement, adding that a plane carrying the prisoners had landed in the kingdom.

“The relevant Saudi authorities have received and transferred them from Russia to the kingdom and are facilitating the procedures for their respective countries,” the statement said.

The ministry did not identify the prisoners. A Saudi official said they were five Britons, two Americans, one Croat, one Moroccan and one Swede.

British Prime Minister Liz Truss hailed the release of British nationals on Twitter as “extremely welcome news” after “months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families”.

British lawmaker Robert Jenrick said Aiden Aslin was among those freed. He was captured earlier this year and later sentenced to death by a court in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), one of Russia’s proxies in eastern Ukraine.

Russia has also released US citizens Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, a family representative told Reuters on Wednesday.

The pair, both from Alabama, were captured in June while fighting in eastern Ukraine where they went to support Ukrainian troops resisting the Russian invasion.

Large numbers of foreigners have traveled to Ukraine to fight since the February 24 Russian invasion. Some of them were captured by Russian forces, along with other foreigners in the country who say they were not fighters.

Reuters could not immediately determine whether the released group included Britons Shaun Pinner and Moroccan-born Brahim Saadoun, who were also captured and sentenced to death in Donetsk.

A Swedish citizen, captured in the port city of Mariupol and facing a death sentence under DPR laws, was among those freed, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde confirmed.

“I can confirm that the Swede who was arrested in May by Russian forces is free and on his way to Sweden,” Linde told Swedish news agency TT on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. York.

Prince Mohammed has maintained close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including as part of the OPEC+ group of oil producers, despite strong pressure from Washington, Riyadh’s traditional ally, to isolate Russia.

Ukrainian and Russian forces have captured hundreds of enemy combatants since the start of the conflict, and some prisoner exchanges have taken place.

The head of the UN human rights mission to Ukraine said earlier this month that Russia does not allow access to prisoners of war, adding that the UN has evidence that some had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment which may amount to war crimes.

Russia denies torture or other forms of ill-treatment of prisoners of war.