An American who returned to US soil last week after being held by Russian-backed forces for more than three months said Tuesday that he has “not-a-one” regret about traveling to Ukraine to fight.
“I’m a little old for fighting, but I knew I had some knowledge and some experience that I hoped would be of value – of help to the Ukrainian people,” Alexander John-Robert Drueke told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360.”
“Because what was happening to them was absolutely terrible and shouldn’t have happened, and I think most of us realized if Ukraine did fall, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin wasn’t going to stop there. So I wanted to do my part to stop Putin,” he said.
Drueke and fellow American Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh had been captured in June while fighting for Ukraine in a battle near Kharkiv. The pair was released as part of a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine that was brokered by Saudi Arabia.
Their pro-Russian captors, the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), is a Russian-backed, self-declared republic that has governed a breakaway portion of Ukraine’s Donetsk region since 2014. Drueke said Tuesday evening he was treated “not great” in captivity, but he declined to elaborate.
Drueke and Huynh arrived in New York City on Friday before being reunited with their family and friends at an airport in Birmingham, Alabama, over the weekend. Drueke’s mother, Bunny, said her son snuck up behind her at the airport as a surprise.
“I don’t remember looking at his face, but I turned around and went right into his arms,” she said smiling.
Speaking with CNN’s Erin Burnett Monday evening, Huynh said the feeling of returning to the US was “surreal.”
Drueke echoed that feeling Tuesday, but told Cooper he had no regrets.
“You know, I love the Ukrainian people,” he said. “On top of them being just brave and fierce, they are generous. They are warm. They are kind. I mean, they were just – they were amazing. And I’m glad that I could help them.”
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