Ex-Marine Reed returns to US after prisoner swap with Russia

  • Reed was convicted of endangering the lives of Russian police
  • Yaroshenko was convicted of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine
  • The United States is also working to free another American held in Russia

WASHINGTON, April 28 (Reuters) – Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed has returned to the United States, his spokesman said on Thursday, after being freed by Russia in a prisoner swap that took place amid the most strained bilateral relations in decades over the war. . in Ukraine.

Reed was released Wednesday in exchange for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko.

The swap was not part of broader diplomatic talks and did not represent a change in US approach to Ukraine, US officials said. Russian-American ties have been at their worst since the Cold War era following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 and subsequent Western sanctions imposed on Moscow.

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Reed, from Texas, was back in the United States, his spokesman said, without immediately confirming where he entered the country.

His parents previously said they would take him to a military hospital for monitoring. Senior US officials say the 30-year-old was in “good spirits”.

“Today we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family who missed him so much,” President Joe Biden said in a statement ahead of Reed’s arrival, noting the parents’ concerns about his son’s health. son.

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

Asked later Wednesday how he was able to raise the issue of Reed’s arrest amid broader tensions with Russia over Ukraine, Biden said: “I did. I brought it up. I brought it up three months ago.”

Reed was convicted in Russia in 2019 of endangering the lives of two police officers while drunk on a visit to Moscow. The United States called his trial a “theater of the absurd.”

US officials said Biden commuted the sentence of Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was arrested by US special forces in Liberia in 2010 and convicted of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States. Russia had proposed a prisoner swap for Yaroshenko in July 2019 in exchange for the release of any Americans.

The exchange occurred in Turkey, and the United States thanked Turkey, a NATO ally, for its help in the exchange. Russian news agencies reported that Yaroshenko then flew from Ankara to Sochi and finally to Moscow. Rossiya 1, Russia’s main national news channel, showed a video of Yaroshenko being hugged by his wife and his daughter, jumping for joy, on the tarmac of a Moscow airport.

Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said they were working to free another American held in Russia, Paul Whelan, also a former Marine.

Joey and Paula Reed, Trevor Reed’s parents, thanked Biden and others, saying in a statement that “the President’s action may have saved Trevor’s life.”

His father, Joey, later told reporters that they had two phone calls with his son on Wednesday.

“It didn’t sound like him (on the first call). On the second call, he sounded more like himself. He must have had some fluids and food. He was telling jokes,” Joey Reed said.

A video from Russian state television, played by CNN, showed Reed, slim and in a dark coat, supported on either side by men dressed in camouflage. Russian state media described the video as showing Reed at an airport in Russia.

“It seems terrible to us. As her parents, we know she doesn’t look good,” Paula Reed told CNN outside her home in Granbury, Texas.

“The American plane stopped next to the Russian plane and they walked with both prisoners just like you see in the movies,” Joey Reed told CNN.

Biden met with Joey and Paula Reed on March 30. The following week, the parents said that a prisoner exchange appeared to be the only way to bring Reed home and urged the White House to take all possible steps.

The months of tense diplomacy leading up to Reed’s release were narrowly focused on securing his freedom and were not the start of discussions on other issues, senior Biden administration officials said. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the swap followed a long negotiation process.

Russian news agencies reported on April 4 that Reed had ended a hunger strike and was being treated at his prison medical center. The prison service said Reed had gone on a hunger strike on March 28 to protest disciplinary action against him.

Reed’s parents said at the time that he had been exposed to an inmate with active tuberculosis in December. The prison service said Reed had repeatedly tested negative for tuberculosis.

The Reeds said their son would tell his story when he was ready.

“We would respectfully ask for a little privacy while we address the myriad of health issues brought on by the appalling conditions he was subjected to in his Russian gulag,” they said.

Biden said his administration will continue to work for the release of Whelan and others. Whelan has been arrested on espionage charges which he denies and which he has compared to a political kidnapping.

Whelan’s family said they were concerned that the deal made with Russia on Yaroshenko would dim Whelan’s prospects for release.

“Is President Biden’s failure to bring Paul home an admission that some cases are just too hard to solve?” they asked in a statement. “Who is saved is the election of the president.”

American basketball star Brittney Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was detained at a Moscow airport on February 17 when a search of her luggage allegedly revealed multiple cannabis oil vaporizer cartridges. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

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Reporting from Doina Chiacu, Humeyra Pamuk, Simon Lewis, Susan Heavey, Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington, Barbara Goldberg in New York, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, and Anirudh Saligrama in Bengaluru; Edited by Will Dunham, Chizu Nomiyama, and Leslie Adler

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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