By Isabelle Brady
WASHINGTON, DC – A former U.S. Marine, Trevor Reed, was freed from a Russian prison in an unexpected prisoner-swap negotiated Wednesday by Russia and the U.S. amid high tensions between the two countries over the war in Ukraine.
Reed, a 30-year-old Marine from Texas, was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison after being arrested in the summer of 2019 and subsequently convicted of assaulting a police officer after a night of heavy drinking. Reed maintained that he had no recollection of such an incident.
John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, said that he was convicted on “laughable” evidence.
Just two weeks ago, a Russian court had dismissed Reed’s appeal. In response, Ambassador Sullivan said that Reed remained in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.”
But he remains in prison no longer.
He was traded in exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was convicted of cocaine trafficking in 2010 and sentenced to 20 years in U.S. federal prison.
According to the Associated Press, the Justice Department has described him as “an experienced international drug trafficker” who conspired to distribute thousands of kilograms of cocaine around the world.
The prisoner exchange happened in Turkey. Reed’s father, Joey, said that “the two planes pulled up side by side, essentially, and then they got out.”
The prisoner swap has specifically refocused attention on two other Americans in Russian custody, among them WNBA star Brittney Griner and Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan.
Griner, having just flown to Russia to play basketball, was arrested Feb. 17 after Russian officials accused her of having vape cartridges that contained an oil derived from cannabis. She is accused of smuggling drugs, an offense that carries a potential penalty of 10 years in prison.
Whelan, also a former U.S. Marine, was convicted of being an American spy in 2019 and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
A senior official for the administration characterized the negotiations as regarding only a “discrete set of prisoner issues,” having nothing to do with the U.S. government’s ongoing condemnation of Russia’s violence against Ukraine.
Regarding the swap, President Biden said in a statement that he “welcomes home Trevor Reed and celebrates his return to the family that missed him dearly. 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.”