Russia Pulls of ‘Prisoner Swap’ of the Century
The U.S. and Russia have carried out a prisoner swap Wednesday, exchanging Trevor Reed – a Marine veteran jailed in Moscow – for a Russian drug trafficker who has been serving time in America, a senior U.S. official told the Associated Press.
The deal comes as tensions between U.S. and Russia are running high, with Moscow’s bloody invasion of Ukraine in its 63rd day.
“Today, we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family that missed him dearly. Trevor, a former U.S. Marine, is free from Russian detention,” President Biden said in a statement. “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.”
In their own statement, the Reed family thanked Biden “for making the decision to bring Trevor home” as well as other administration officials and Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations whom the family said traveled to Moscow in the hours before the Ukraine war began in hopes of securing Reed’s release.
Reed was one of several Americans known to be held by Russia, including WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was detained in February after authorities said a search of her bag revealed a cannabis derivative, and Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, who is being held on espionage-related charges his family says are bogus.
“We won’t stop until Paul Whelan and others join Trevor in the loving arms of family and friends,” Biden also said Wednesday.
U.S. senior administration officials said Wednesday that Reed, who is in “good spirits”, is currently heading back to America to be reunited with his family and that his health was an “intense concern” and driving factor leading to his release.
“This is a discreet issue in which we were able to make an arrangement with the Russians,” one official said about the prisoner swap. “It represents no change – zero – to our approach to the appalling violence in Ukraine.”
Reed, a now-30-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former presidential security guard, had been living in Russia in the summer of 2019 when was arrested by Russian police and accused of assaulting a police officer. He had been celebrating in a park with his longtime Russian girlfriend and her colleagues at the time, his father, Joey Reed, told Fox News Digital earlier this month.
Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison, though his family has maintained his innocence and the U.S. government has described him as unjustly detained.
“He was extremely intoxicated because they’d been to a party for her law firm in a park,” he explained.
At the time, Reed had been taking Russian language classes for an international studies degree through the University of North Texas, his father said.
Following a public trial, Reed was convicted in July 2020 of assaulting police officers and was sentenced to nine years in prison.
His time in Russian prisons and labor camps had been concerning, the family said.
“He was essentially in solitary confinement, I believe, for over a year in a pretty bad prison,” Reed said. “Once he got to the labor camp … they would wake him up every hour. You know, they were punishing him for different things.”
He added: “My son saw the sun maybe a dozen times in two years.”
Trevor pushed back against Russian authorities’ efforts to make him work at the labor camp, telling them: “I’m not working for you. You’ve taken me hostage, and I’m not going to make stuff for you to make money on.”
Trevor’s situation grew recently concerning in recent months after he became ill with active tuberculosis and then began continuously coughing up blood.
In the other side of the prisoner swap, the U.S. agreed to return Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence in Connecticut for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. after he was arrested in Liberia in 2010 and extradited to the U.S.
Russia had sought his return for years while also rejecting entreaties by high-level U.S. officials to release Reed, who was nearing his 1,000th day in custody and whose health had recently been worsening, according to his family.
The two prisoners were swapped in a European country.
Though officials would not say where the transfer took place, in the hours before it happened commercial flight trackers identified a plane belonging to Russia’s federal security service as flying to Ankara, Turkey.
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons also updated its website overnight to reflect that Yaroshenko was no longer in custody.