TUSCALOOSA, Ala (WIAT) — Alex Drueke, former U.S. soldier being held captive in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, was able to directly communicate with his family over the weekend.

According to a press release from Drueke’s family, his captors reached the U.S. State Department by telephone and allowed him to speak.

Drueke’s mother, Lois “Bunny” Drueke, had last received direct communication from her son via text message on June 8. On June 17, pre-recorded footage of Drueke was released on telegram from reporters with RT, a state-run Russian media outlet.

According to Dianne Shaw, Alex Drueke’s aunt, the information recently received was essentially the same.

“It was basically the same message as in the short video where he addressed his mother, saying he is OK, he is receiving food and water and has shelter and bedding,” Shaw said.

“We want to believe all these things, and it is Russia’s responsibility to make sure it’s all true,” Bunny Drueke said. “Having Alex call and say these things tells me that Russia knows the world is watching how they treat the two men.”

Drueke is being held captive alongside Andy Huynh. Both men are military veterans from Alabama who were volunteers with a Ukrainian unit when they were captured during an operation outside Kharviv by the Russians.

“Russia has the influence over their surrogates to see that Alex and Andy are given humane treatment as POWs and eventually released unharmed,” Bunny Drueke said.

The U.S. State Department continues to keep all channels of communication open and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has discussed the situation with the Kremlin, according to the Drueke family who receive daily briefings.

“Alex and Andy are Ukrainian Army volunteers with U.S. citizenship,” Shaw explained. “Since the U.S. is ‘on the sidelines’ of the war, it’s up to the Ukrainian government to take the lead on any potential negotiations or prisoner exchanges.”

The State Department confirmed that the men are being held in the Donetsk region, a troublesome area from a diplomatic standpoint. Russia and the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) currently control the majority of Donetsk, having captured the southern and northern parts, including the city of Mariupol.

In February this year, the U.S. leveed sanctions over Russia’s recognition of the sovereignty of the DPR. The document, among other things, established a ban for Americans to finance and invest in the DPR or trade with them.