A Tuscaloosa man being held as a prisoner of war by Russian forces made contact with his mother here in Alabama after almost three weeks of silence.

Alex Drueke, a Tuscaloosa U.S. military veteran who travelled to the Ukraine in April to train and support its forces against invasion, was captured by Russian-backed forces in early June.

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From June 23rd until July 8th, Drueke was allowed to make several calls to his mother, Lois "Bunny" Drueke, but Dianna Shaw, Alex's aunt and a spokesperson for the family, said the calls stopped coming 20 days ago.

Finally, on Thursday, Drueke broke the silence and called his mother from a new prison in an unspecified location after a month in solitary confinement.

“He sounded strong and clear-minded. He said he and Andy have been moved to a traditional prison, that they are no longer in solitary confinement but that they are together now 24/7,” Mrs. Drueke said. “He said a third man is in the cell with them but he did not reveal his name and I did not ask because I didn’t want the call to be cut off if I got too nosy. That happened once before.”

Bunny Drueke gave Alex the contact information for his case manager at the U.S. Department of State, but said he'd been provided that information before, which may indicate he is with different captors now.

The Tuscaloosa woman also said the State Department later confirmed that Alex Drueke was able to place a call to them after he spoke to her. The federal representatives indicated they may have intelligence about where Drueke, fellow Alabama POW Andy Huynh are being held and who the third prisoner is, but did not share that information with the family Thursday.


“They said they couldn’t share further specifics with me yet due to privacy considerations for the third man’s family,” Mrs. Drueke said.

She relayed assurances from the government that securing the men's release is a top priority for the State Department, and said she and Huynh's fiancé Joy Black are meeting virtually soon with the Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S.

She also told Alex that President Joe Biden and the U.S. Government have publicly offered to negotiate with Russians in the Kremlin for a prison exchange to bring home Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.

Griner is a women's basketball star who has been jailed in Russia since February after authorities there found cannabis oil in her luggage.

Whelan has been jailed since 2018 for suspected espionage.

The. U.S. maintains that both are wrongfully imprisoned there.

“Our hearts are with Griner’s and Whelan’s families and we hope their detentions are resolved soon,” Shaw said. “Our situation is different of course because Alex and Andy are lawful combatants being held as Prisoners of War, but we continue to hold faith that our men are being treated according to international standards of the Geneva Conventions and that they will be released soon.”

For more updates from the Drueke family as this situation develops, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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