Riyadh says Russia frees 10 foreigners arrested in Ukraine after Saudi mediation

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RIYADH, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Russia on Wednesday released 10 foreign prisoners of war captured in Ukraine, brokered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi foreign ministry said.

The released prisoners were nationals of the United States, Britain, Croatia, Morocco and Sweden, the ministry said in a statement, adding that a plane carrying the prisoners landed in the country.

“The relevant Saudi authorities have received and transferred them from Russia to Saudi Arabia and are facilitating the process in their respective countries,” the statement said.

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The ministry has not identified the prisoners. They were five Britons, two Americans, a Croat, a Moroccan and a Swede, a Saudi official said.

Prime Minister Liz Truss hailed the release of British citizens on Twitter as “very welcome news” after “months of uncertainty and pain for them and their families”.

British MP Robert Jenrick said Aiden Aslin was among those freed. He was arrested earlier this year and subsequently sentenced to death by a court calling itself the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), one of Russia’s proxies in eastern Ukraine.

Russia also released 39-year-old U.S. citizens Alexander Drueke and 27-year-old Andy Huynh, a family representative told Reuters on Wednesday.read more

Both are from Alabama and were arrested in June while fighting in eastern Ukraine, where they traveled to support Ukrainian troops against a Russian invasion.

Large numbers of foreigners have traveled to Ukraine to fight in Russia since February 2. 24 Invasion. Some of them have been captured by Russian troops, and others are foreigners who claim they are not fighters in the country.

Reuters could not immediately determine whether the released groups included Briton Shaun Pinner and Morocco-born Brahim Saadoun, who were also arrested and sentenced to death in Donetsk.

A Swedish citizen who was arrested in the port city of Mariupol and could face a death sentence under North Korean law has been released, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Lind confirmed.

“I can confirm that the Swedes detained by Russian troops in May are free and on their way to Sweden,” Lind told Swedish news agency TT on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Prince Mohammed maintains close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including within the framework of the OPEC+ group of oil producers, despite intense pressure from Washington, Riyadh’s traditional ally, to isolate Russia.

Both Ukrainian and Russian troops have captured hundreds of enemy fighters and conducted a handful of prisoner-of-war exchanges since the conflict began.

The head of the UN human rights mission in Ukraine said earlier this month that Russia would not allow access to prisoners of war, adding that the UN had evidence that some had been tortured and ill-treated in what could amount to war crimes.read more

Russia denies torture or other ill-treatment of prisoners of war.

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Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Additional reporting by Niklas Pollard in Stockholm; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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