STORY: In a surprise prisoner swap – former U.S. marine Trevor Reed, who was detained in Russia since 2019, has been released.
Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko - who was serving a 20-year sentence in the United States for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine – was released in return.
The swap, which U.S. officials have said was the result of months of hard and careful work, comes as U.S.-Russia relations are at their worst in decades.
Officials said the talks that led to Reed’s release strictly focused on securing his freedom… and was not the start of a broader diplomatic conversation.
President Joe Biden did not comment on details of the release, but said (quote) "The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly."
Reed was convicted in Russia in 2019 of endangering the lives of two police officers while drunk on a visit to Moscow. The U.S. has called his trial a "theater of the absurd."
In 2020, his father Joey spoke to Reuters from Moscow:
"Dismissing charges in Russia, from my understanding, is very rare. But at least - lower the charges, so it is a lower penalty.”
Over two years later… Reed on Wednesday was on his way to be reunited with his family in the United States, according to senior administration officials, who said the 30-year-old Texan was in good spirits.
Reed’s parents thanked President Biden for the release of their son, adding he may have saved their son’s life.
In a statement, they said their son would tell his own story as soon as he was ready, adding (quote)
"We'd respectfully ask for some privacy while we address the myriad of health issues brought on by the squalid conditions he was subjected to in his Russian gulag.”
Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said they were working to free another U.S. citizen held in Russia, Paul Whelan, also a former Marine.