Russia, US Complete Drawn-Out Prisoner Swap

Biden administration exchanges Konstantin Yaroshenko for Trevor Reed
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 27, 2022 8:26 AM CDT
Ex-Marine Held in Russia Freed in Swap
Joey and Paula Reed pose for a photo with a portrait of their son Marine veteran and Russian prisoner Trevor Reed at their home in Fort Worth, Texas, Feb. 15, 2022.   (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

The Biden administration has just seen its highest-profile release of an American deemed wrongly detained abroad—courtesy of Russia. Russia and the US carried out a dramatic prisoner exchange on Wednesday, trading a Marine veteran jailed in Moscow for a convicted Russian drug trafficker serving a long prison sentence in Connecticut, per the AP. Russia released Trevor Reed, a former Marine from Texas who was arrested in 2019 after Russian authorities said he assaulted a police officer while being driven to a police station following a night of heavy drinking. Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison, though his family has maintained his innocence and the US government described him as unjustly detained.

The US agreed to return Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US after he was arrested in Liberia in 2010 and extradited to the US. Russia had sought his return for years while also rejecting entreaties to release Reed, who was nearing his 1,000th day in custody and whose health had recently been worsening, according to his family. A senior US official described Reed's case as one of "utmost priority" for the administration. The official noted Yaroshenko, whose sentence has now been commuted, had already served the majority of his sentence. "It was a difficult decision but one that we thought was worth it," the official said.

The Russian foreign ministry said the exchange was "a result of a long negotiation process." The two prisoners were swapped in an unnamed European country. In the hours before the exchange occurred, commercial flight trackers identified a plane belonging to Russia's federal security service as flying to Ankara, Turkey. Reed's parents scored a rare private meeting with President Biden and administration officials last month. In a statement, his family thanked Biden "for making the decision to bring Trevor home" and Bill Richardson, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, whom the family said traveled to Moscow in the hours before the Ukraine war began in hopes of securing Reed's release. (More prisoner exchange stories.)

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