By Janet Ekstract
WASHINGTON-This week, the White House lauded Turkish mediation efforts and diplomatic exchanges that led to a prisoner exchange deal between Russia and Ukraine. White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre thanked Turkiye and Saudi Arabia “for facilitating the exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and Russia. On Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced that Russia and Ukraine agreed to a prisoner swap deal through Turkish diplomatic, mediation efforts with Zelensky and Putin. The deal included the release of hundreds of prisoners of war including two American nationals.
As Jean-Pierre commented: “The United States welcomes a negotiated prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia,” she told reporters. “We are appreciative of Ukraine including all prisoners regardless of nationality in its negotiations, and we look forward to these U.S. citizens being reunited with their families.” Ukraine’s President Zelensky confirmed the exchange of 215 Ukrainian soldiers in a video statement and thanked Turkiye for its work on the deal. Russia reported that 55 of its servicemen were released in Kyiv. The two American nationals included John-Robert Drueke, 39, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27 of Hartselle, Alabama who were both taken prisoner while fighting with Ukrainian forces in the northeast Kharkiv region in June. Both arrived in the U.S. on Friday. Erdogan praised the prisoner exchange and said his country will continue efforts to promote peace between Russia and Ukraine. On Friday, Erdogan mentioned that his country is hosting 200 people after the prisoner exchange deal.