NEWS U.S. Air Force veteran freed in Ukrainian-Russian prisoner swap

U.S. Air Force veteran freed in Ukrainian-Russian prisoner swap

U.S. Air Force veteran Sudi Murekci was released from Russian-controlled territory in a prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Relatives of Murekezi told The Washington Post that he was arrested in June by pro-Russian authorities in the formerly occupied city of Kherson after he was falsely accused of taking part in pro-Ukrainian protests.

  • Kirby confirmed Murekzi’s release on a conference call with reporters Wednesday, saying: “We welcome the news.”

detail: Murekezi is originally from Minnesota, but has lived in Ukraine since 2018.

  • He was allegedly freed along with 64 Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers who fought in Donetsk and Luhansk. Andre Yemarkchief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • Yermak said Ukraine had also received the remains of four soldiers killed in action.

What are they saying: In an ABC News interview released Wednesday, Murekzi said he spent weeks after his initial arrest in the basement, where he said he was tortured with beatings and electric shocks.

  • Murekezi said he was then transferred to a prison in the city of Donetsk, where he was held for three months before being released, even though he did not have a U.S. passport and was effectively trapped.

big picture: Murekezi’s release comes less than a week after WNBA star Brittney Griner was released in a prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

  • Murekzi was one of at least three U.S. military veterans arrested or captured by Russia or Russia-backed authorities during Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Alexander John-Robert Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh were two other former service members who were arrested in June while fighting alongside Ukrainians in Kharkiv but were released in a prisoner exchange in September.
  • At least two Americans have been killed in the fighting in Ukraine, but the exact number is not yet known.

deeper: Ex-Trump official defends Biden administration’s Greener swap with Russia

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