The pro-Russian captors of two Americans captured during a battle near Kharkiv, Ukraine, earlier this month are reportedly "willing to negotiate," one captive’s mother told CNN on Tuesday.
Bunny Drueke said her son, Alexander John-Robert Drueke, spoke in recent days – under duress – with an official from the U.S. State Department.
"What they said, they said, was that he was being held by the Donetsk People’s Republic, and that they were willing to make a deal for release," Drueke told CNN, characterizing what was relayed to her by the State Department.
Drueke said her State Department contact told her it was clear during the phone call her son was being told what to say. She was informed of the call on Saturday, but it is unclear when it took place.
A senior State Department official told CNN they could not speak to specifics given privacy considerations, "but we have a core mission to provide support to Americans in need, and we take that obligation seriously at all times and in all circumstances."
The so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) is a Russian-backed, self-declared republic which has governed a breakaway portion of Ukraine’s Donetsk region since 2014.
She said it was unclear what his captors were asking for in any negotiation with the U.S. Government: If they asked for something, "the State Department didn’t share it with me," she said.
"He said he had food and water, he was being treated well, and he sounded good," she said. She added he was being held separately from his fellow captive, Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, but he had seen him a few days previously, and "he looked OK."
Last week, a pro-Russian Serbian nationalist YouTube channel, HelmCast, published a more than 50-minute edited video interview of Drueke and Huynh.
In the interview, a man can be heard behind the camera revealing the location of their interview when he says "here in Donetsk" during a question to Drueke.
Drueke was also asked in the interview if he had any objections to how he has been treated since his capture, and he revealed he has been beaten a few times.
Previous reporting from Jonny Hallam in Atlanta.