World

Trevor Reed: US marine released in prisoner swap with Russia

A former US marine held in a Russian jail since 2019 has been released in a prisoner swap.

US and Russian officials confirmed on Wednesday that Trevor Reed is on his way back to the US.

In exchange, Russia’s foreign ministry secured the release of Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian national jailed on drug smuggling charges.

The Reed family said in a statement that their “prayers have been answered”.

They said the marine would tell his story publicly after addressing “the myriad of health issues” brought on by conditions he was “subjected to in his Russian gulag”.

President Joe Biden said he had been “delighted” to share the news of Mr Reed’s return with his parents.

“I heard in the voices of Trevor’s parents how much they’ve worried about his health and missed his presence,” he said.

He added: “The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly.”

Mr Reed, 30, went to Moscow in 2019 to learn Russian and visit his Russian girlfriend.

On a drunken night out, he was detained by two police officers after attending a party. While being driven to the police station, he is said to have grabbed the police officer driving, causing him to swerve dangerously, and elbowed the other officer who tried to intervene.

Maintaining that he had no recollection of the incident, he pleaded not guilty but was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2020 on assault charges.

The US government voiced several concerns about the fairness of his trial, with US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan recently saying that Mr Reed “remains in prison for a crime he didn’t commit”.

According to Joey and Paula Reed, their son was poorly treated in prison and appeared to have contracted tuberculosis.

The couple protested outside the White House last month, ultimately securing a meeting with the president.

The prisoner swap was carried out via Turkey after President Biden commuted the sentence of Mr Yaroshenko.

The Russian pilot had been serving a 20-year sentence since 2011 for smuggling cocaine into the US. His lawyer has confirmed the Russian national is also headed home.

Senior US officials said Wednesday’s exchange was not the start of a broader diplomatic dialogue and instead focused narrowly on a “discrete set of prisoner issues”.

That means the fate of other Americans currently detained in Russia – including Brittney Griner, a double Olympic gold medallist in women’s basketball – remains unclear for now.

In a statement, the family of Paul Whelan, a former US marine being held on spying charges, said it was “full of happiness for the Reeds” but time was running out for Mr Whelan.

“Paul has already spent three-and-a-quarter years as a Russian hostage,” they wrote. “Is President Biden’s failure to bring Paul home an admission that some cases are too hard to solve? Is the administration’s piecemeal approach picking low hanging fruit?”