Former Texas Marine Trevor Reed rescued from Russia in prisoner swap

WASHINGTON — Russia and the United States conducted a dramatic prisoner swap on Wednesday, swapping a Navy veteran jailed in Moscow for a convicted Russian drug trafficker who is serving a long sentence in America, a senior US official said.

The surprise deal would have been a remarkable diplomatic maneuver even in peacetime, but it was all the more extraordinary when it came about, as Russia’s war with Ukraine has pushed relations with the US to their lowest levels in decades.

As part of the exchange, Russia released Trevor Reed, a former Texas Marine who was arrested in the summer of 2019 after Russian authorities said he assaulted an officer as he was being driven by police to a police station after a night of heavy drinking . Reed was later sentenced to nine years in prison, although his family has maintained his innocence and the US government has called him wrongly imprisoned.

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The US agreed to return Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence in Connecticut for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US, after he was arrested in Liberia in 2010 and extradited to the US

For years, Russia had sought his return while refusing requests from senior US officials to release Reed, who was dedicated to his 1,000th birthday. Day of detention was approaching and his family said his health had deteriorated recently.

The two prisoners were exchanged in a European country. Although officials declined to say where the transfer took place, in the hours before it happened, commercial flight trackers identified a Russian Federal Security Service plane bound for Ankara, Turkey. The US Bureau of Prisons also updated its website overnight to indicate that Yaroshenko is no longer in custody.

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The prisoner swap marks the most prominent release during the Biden administration of an American wrongly imprisoned abroad, and even comes as families of inmates who have met with administration officials over the past year think they’re cool about the idea of ​​an exchange had described.

In a statement, the Reed family thanked President Joe Biden “for the decision to bring Trevor home,” as well as other government officials and Bill Richardson, the former US Ambassador to the United Nations, who the family said was in the hours previously traveled to Moscow The war in Ukraine began in hopes of securing Reed’s release.

Reed was among several Americans known to be being held by Russia, including WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was arrested in February after authorities said a search of her bag turned up a cannabis derivative, and Paul Whelan, the company’s security officer in Michigan, who is being held over espionage allegations his family believes are false. It was unclear what impact Wednesday’s action might have on their cases.

Reed’s parents had a rare private meeting with Biden and administration officials last month. They had stood along his motorcade route weeks earlier during a presidential visit to Texas hoping to get his attention, and then later demonstrated outside the White House to request a meeting.

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Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Former Texas Marine Trevor Reed rescued from Russia in prisoner swap

Dais Johnston

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