A man from Minnesota who was detained by Russian troops as he tried to leave Ukraine has been released, according to his family and a United States senator from his home state.
Tyler Jacob, 28, was taken off a bus by Russian soldiers at a checkpoint in Russian-occupied Crimea on March 13, his mother, Tina Hauser, said in a phone interview late Friday evening. He had been teaching English in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson since the fall.
Mr. Jacob was held at a jail in the Crimean city of Simferopol, where he was questioned and his phone was searched, Ms. Hauser said. He was released earlier this week and is now in a NATO country where he has been reunited with his wife and daughter, who separately made their way out of Ukraine, she added.
Ms. Hauser said she had spoken to her son over FaceTime after he arrived in the third country. She declined to name it for security reasons.
“It was a nice relief to see him over the phone,” she said. “He looked pretty exhausted but in very good spirits, knowing he was free now to continue on with his life.”
Mr. Jacob, a native of Winona, Minn., moved to Ukraine in mid-November to be with his then-girlfriend, according to his mother. The couple met through an online dating site and married in January.
Kherson, a strategic port near the Black Sea, was the first major city to fall in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Its citizens have been publicly protesting against their Russian occupiers.
With few options for leaving the city, Mr. Jacob made the tough choice to leave his wife and 11-year-old stepdaughter behind to board a bus evacuating foreigners bound for Turkey, Ms. Hauser said. His wife messaged her on March 14 to say that Mr. Jacob had been detained by Russian solders in the Crimean town of Armyansk.
The reason for his detention was not clear as of Saturday morning. His family assumes it was because he was an American citizen, Ms. Hauser said. She said she had been in contact with a British national on the same bus who was pulled aside by Russian soldiers along with Mr. Jacob but was not detained.
Mr. Jacob said he was given sufficient food and treated well even as soldiers went through his phone and interrogated him about his marriage certificate, photos and passport, Ms. Hauser said.
The office of Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, said that she had worked with Mr. Jacob’s family, the State Department and the United States Embassy in Moscow to secure his release. Ms. Klobuchar said in a statement that he had been “unjustly detained” and held for 10 days, but she did not provide further details.
Alexandra E. Petri contributed reporting.