The pro-Russian captors of two Americans captured in a battle near Kharkiv, Ukraine, earlier this month are said to be “willing to negotiate,” the captive’s mother told CNN on Tuesday.
Bunny Drueke said his son, Alexander John-Robert Drueke, had spoken in recent days – under duress – with a US State Department official.
“What they said, they said, was that he was being held by the Donetsk People’s Republic and they were ready to make a deal for his release,” Drueke told CNN, describing what happened. sent to him by the State Department.
Drueke said his contact at the State Department told him it was clear in the phone call that his son was being told what to say. She was notified of the call on Saturday, but it is unclear when it took place.
A senior State Department official told CNN they could not speak to specifics given confidentiality considerations, “but our primary mission is to provide support to Americans in need, and we take that obligation seriously at all times and under all circumstances”.
The so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) is a self-declared Russian-backed republic that has ruled a breakaway part of Ukraine’s Donetsk region since 2014.
She said it was unclear what her captors were asking for in any negotiations with the U.S. government: if they were asking for something, “the State Department didn’t tell me,” she said. she says.
“He said he had food and water, was well treated and looked good,” she said. She added that he was being held separately from his fellow captive, Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, but had seen him a few days earlier and “he looked fine”.
Last week, a pro-Russian Serbian nationalist YouTube channel, HelmCast, posted an edited video interview of over 50 minutes of Drueke and Huynh.
In the interview, a man behind the camera can be heard revealing the location of their interview when he says “here in Donetsk” when questioning Drueke.
During the interview, Drueke was also asked if he had any objections to the way he has been treated since his capture, and he revealed that he has been beaten on several occasions.
Earlier reporting by Jonny Hallam in Atlanta.