US Air Force veteran Suedi Murekezi had been held in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine. He appears to have been released as part of a prisoner-of-war exchange with Ukrainian forces. Photos from YouTube and Twitter.
A US Air Force veteran who had been held in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine appears to have been released as part of a prisoner-of-war exchange with Ukrainian forces.
Though not a POW and apparently not associated with the fighting in Ukraine, he was held by Russian-leaning separatists in the Donetsk region since last summer.
Air Force officials confirmed to Coffee or Die Magazine that Suedi Murekezi served in the Air Force from 2009 to 2016, leaving the Air Force as an airman first class assigned to the 436th Supply Chain Operations Squadron at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, tweeted this photo along with the message: "Another POWs swap. 64 soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who fought in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas, are going home. Also, we managed to free a US citizen who helped our people – Suedi Murekezi. And we got home bodies of four KIAs." Photo courtesy of Andriy Yermak/Twitter.
The State Department told Coffee or Die that "we can confirm that a U.S. citizen who was released by Russian forces in Ukraine has now departed Russian-controlled territory."
Murekezi's family told The Washington Post in July that the 35-year-old had been working in Ukraine in the technology sector and living in Kherson, and was not associated with the military fighting.
Russian separatists arrested Murekezi in June. Though he was not a POW, he was held until late October when he was released in Donetsk, Murekezi told The Guardian last week.
At some point he was held with Americans Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Huynh, who were released in a prisoner exchange in September.
He appears to have been delivered to Ukrainian forces along with 64 Ukrainian POWs Wednesday. Several Ukrainian government officials, including Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine's presidential office, released pictures and videos of the exchange.
Matt White is a former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism.
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