Riyadh said Russia is releasing 10 foreigners who were captured in Ukraine after Saudi mediation

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Red Sea WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight boxing match, between Oleksandr Usyk against Anthony Joshua, in King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, August 20, 2022. Bandar Al-Julud / Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court / Posted via Reuters

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RIYADH (Reuters) – Russia on Wednesday released 10 foreign prisoners of war detained in Ukraine after mediation by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said.

The ministry said in a statement that the released prisoners are Americans, British, Croats, Moroccans and Swedes, adding that a plane carrying the prisoners landed in the Kingdom.

The statement stated that “the concerned Saudi authorities received them and transferred them from Russia to the Kingdom and are facilitating the procedures for their countries.”

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The ministry did not specify the identity of the prisoners. A Saudi official said they were five Britons, an American, a Croat, a Moroccan and a Swede.

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

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

On Wednesday, a family representative told Reuters that Russia had also released US citizens Alexander Drake, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27. Read more

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The two, both from Alabama, were captured in June while fighting in eastern Ukraine where they had gone to support Ukrainian forces resisting a Russian invasion.

A large number of foreigners have traveled to Ukraine to fight since the Russian invasion on February 24. Some were captured by Russian forces, along with other foreigners in the country who said they were not combatants.

Reuters was not immediately able to determine if the released group included Britons Sean Benner and Moroccan Ibrahim Saadoun, who were arrested and sentenced to death in Donetsk.

Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde confirmed that a Swedish citizen, who was arrested in the coastal city of Mariupol and facing a possible death sentence under the laws of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was among those released.

“I can confirm that the Swede who was detained by Russian forces in May is at large on his way to Sweden,” Linde told Swedish news agency TT on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Prince Mohammed has maintained close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including within the framework of the OPEC + group of oil producers, despite intense pressure from Washington, a traditional ally of Riyadh, to isolate Russia.

Ukrainian and Russian forces have captured hundreds of enemy combatants since the conflict began, with only a few prisoners being exchanged.

The head of the UN human rights mission in Ukraine said earlier this month that Russia does not allow access to prisoners of war, adding that the UN has evidence that some have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment that may amount to war crimes. Read more

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

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(Aziz Al-Yaqoubi report). Additional reporting by Niklas Pollard in Stockholm; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Cynthia Osterman

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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