The families of Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, the Alabama natives being held captive by Russian-backed forces in Ukraine met virtually with several members of the U.S. Department of State Friday.

According to a release from the family of Alex Drueke, Michael Abbott of the Bureau of Consular Affairs and John Cooney of the Ukraine Desk of the Bureau of European Affairs "assured the families that Drueke’s and Huynh’s safety and release are a top priority for the Department."

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As previously reported by the Tuscaloosa Thread, Drueke, a Tuscaloosa native and Huynh, of Hartselle, were captured by Russian forces while supporting Ukrainian forces in June.

“I was so relieved to hear Mr. Cooney promise us that our nation’s leaders know who Alex and Andy are and that they will not forget them,” Alex's mother Bunny Drueke, said in the release.

During the meeting, Abbott recapped the actions of the state department, including meetings with British government counterparts, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), communications with the International Committee of the Red Cross and diplomatic conversations with the Kremlin about the status of the men.

Darla Black, the mother of Huynh's fiancee, said the meeting made it clear to her that the state department is using every avenue to make sure the men are rightfully identified and treated as Prisoners of War.

“It was great to hear that our government is making clear in their dealings with Moscow that Alex and Andy are not mercenaries, and that Russia is responsible for treating them in accordance with international standards,” Black said.

The state department received four calls from Drueke that Abbott reportedly described as "scripted."

“Mr. Abbott said it was difficult for them to assess the men’s treatment and conditions, which was also my sister’s take when she got to speak with Alex,” said Dianna Shaw, Alex's aunt and de facto family spokesperson.

In a release earlier this month, Shaw said some of the POWs' personal belongings have been returned to the Drueke family including their credit cards, passports and other important documents.

Shaw also said the last time Alex Drueke called the State Department or the family was on July 8th, but that a propaganda video released last week encouraged them that the men are still alive and relatively healthy.

For ongoing coverage of the effort to bring Alex and Andy back to Alabama, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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