Trevor Reed: Americans released from Russia in prisoner swap

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American Trevor Reed, a US citizen and former Marine who has been held in Russia since 2019, has been released in a prisoner swap.

The release ended a nearly three-year ordeal for Reed, who was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2020 for endangering the “life and health” of Russian police officers in an altercation. Reed and his family have denied the allegations against him.

“I’m going to try not to cry, because he doesn’t want me to cry,” Reed’s mother, Paula, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on “New Day” Wednesday. “Obviously, I’m going to cry a little bit, hold him close, and just, you know, give him a hug and the four of us will be together again in a few years, so that’s going to be awesome.”

Reed’s release is part of a prisoner swap with Russian citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on her official Telegram channel. Yaroshenko, a pilot, was convicted of drug smuggling in 2011 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He has denied the charges against him.

President Joe Biden confirmed the release.

“Today, we welcome Trevor Reed home and celebrate his return to a family who misses him so much. Trevor, a former US Marine, has been released from Russian detention. I hear in the voices of Trevor’s parents how much they worry about his health and miss his presence. And I am delighted. can share with them the good news about Trevor’s freedom,” Biden said in a statement.

Paula Reed told Keilar that the family was “very grateful” for Biden’s efforts and that they spoke to him and Trevor over the phone after he was released.

In a statement, the family also thanked the media for continuing to cover Reed’s ordeal, particularly praising ABC’s Patrick Reevell and CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Health problems

Reed’s release was the result of “months of careful hard work across the US government” on the matter, a senior administration official said, noting that “talk on this particular issue has accelerated recently to get us to this point.” .”

One of the driving factors is concern for Reed’s health. His family has expressed concern about the possible exposure to tuberculosis as well as the lingering effects of having Covid-19.

The official, speaking to reporters by phone call on Wednesday, said that “in the end, the negotiations left the President with a very difficult decision to make with the decision to commute Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian smuggler convicted of conspiring to import cocaine.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has previously raised the possibility that Yaroshenko could be returned “in exchange for any American citizen” detained in Russia. Yaroshenko is serving his sentence at the Federal Penitentiary in Danbury, Connecticut.

The official did not provide details on how or why Yaroshenko was selected for the swap, but noted that he has served most of his sentence in the US and is now in Russian custody.

“This is a difficult call for a President. President Biden has succeeded in bringing home an American whose health is a source of intense concern, and to fulfill his commitment to solving these difficult cases and reuniting Americans with their loved ones,” he said. official.

Reed is now on his way back to his family in the United States.

Reed’s father previously told CNN that he believed Reed likely had tuberculosis, that he was coughing up blood and had also fractured a rib. He said Reed went to the prison hospital but did not receive treatment and was later sent back to solitary confinement.

When Reed begins his second hunger strike in protest at his treatment by Russian authorities, Reed’s parents go to protest outside the White House in hopes of securing a meeting with the President.

The Reeds finally met with the President at the White House for about half an hour last month.

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2 other Americans are still being held in Russia

Wednesday’s release also brought renewed attention to the case of American Paul Whelan, a US citizen and former Marine who was detained in a Moscow hotel in December 2018 and arrested on espionage charges, which he consistently and vehemently denies. He was found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in prison in June 2020 in a trial US officials denounced as unfair.

Last June, he told CNN about the grim conditions of the labor camp where he worked in a clothing factory he called a “sweat shop” and said getting medical care was “very difficult.”

In remarks welcoming Reed’s release, Biden said his government “will not stop” until Whelan returns.

Meanwhile, US basketball star Brittney Griner remains in custody in Russia after she was arrested in February on drug smuggling charges. A Moscow court recently extended his detention until May 19, according to Russia’s state news agency TASS.

While his legal team had access to him and were able to see him several times a week during his detention, a US official from the US embassy in Moscow was finally granted consular access to Griner in late March, and said they found him to be in good condition.”

Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Wednesday that the cases remain a top priority for the US.