Trevor Reed Released in a Prisoner Swap

Trevor Red, a US Marine veteran who has been held in Russian custody since 2019, was freed Wednesday in a prisoner swap between the Kremlin and the Biden administration. “Today, we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family that missed him dearly,” Joe Biden said in the statement announcing that Reed is “free from Russian detention.” The president continued: “I heard in the voices of Trevor’s parents how much they’ve worried about his health and missed his presence. And I was delighted to be able to share with them the good news about Trevor’s freedom.” Reed’s family told Vanity Fair in March that their son had been coughing blood after close contact with an individual with tuberculosis, and had possibly broken a rib. Russia’s war in Ukraine, and the strained diplomatic ties between Russia and the United States put added pressure on the Biden administration to get Reed, and the two other Americans detained in the country out.

Reed, who was serving a nine-year prison sentence, was indicted with endangering Russian police in 2020 after being accused of drunkenly attacking two Moscow police officers the previous year. Reed has maintained his innocence. In return, US authorities agreed to release Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was arrested by in 2010 and remained in prison on drug-smuggling charges. (The Biden administration described Yaroshenko on Wednesday as “a Russian smuggler convicted of conspiring to import cocaine.”) Neither Russia nor the US announced the location of the exchange, but a Russian Federal Security Service plane was observed flying to Ankara, Turkey, shortly before the meet was set to take place.

Biden said the prisoner swap “required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly,” while acknowledging Roger Carstens, the White House’s hostage affairs, and envoy US ambassador to the Russian Federation John Sullivan‘s “tireless and dedicated” diplomacy. The president also pledged to continue working to secure the freedom of US Marine veteran Paul Whelan and others. (Whelan is serving a 16-year prison sentence after being arrested for espionage charges in 2018, while WNBA player Brittney Griner, who was detained in February for an alleged attempt to fly with cannabis oil, is still awaiting trial.)

“[Reed’s] safe return is a testament to the priority my Administration places on bringing home Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad,” Biden added.

Reed’s parents, Joey and Paula Reed, spent years pleading for their son’s release, more recently warning of his deteriorating health. In a phone call with Reed in early March, Joey said his son was discouraged about the prospects of ever being released, telling his parents “‘quit wasting your efforts to get me out of here…the United States isn’t gonna do anything, especially now with this war in Ukraine,”” Joey recounted to Vanity Fair‘s Abigail Tracy. Reed recently took part in a hunger strike to protest the conditions of his detention. Biden met with Reed’s family in the White House in late March. One senior administration official informed CNN that the exchange was “accelerated” in part due to concerns about Reed’s physical well-being.

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