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