Russia frees US Navy vet in prisoner swap

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia and the United States carried out a dramatic prisoner swap on Wednesday, swapping a Marine veteran imprisoned in Moscow for a convicted Russian drug trafficker serving a long prison term in America, a US official said. senior US official and the Russian Foreign Ministry. .

The surprise deal would have been a notable diplomatic maneuver even in peacetime, but it was all the more extraordinary given that it was struck as Russia’s war with Ukraine drove relations with the United States at their lowest level in decades.

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

The United States has agreed to return Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence in Connecticut for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the United States after his arrest in Liberia in 2010 and extradition to the United States.

Russia had demanded his return for years while rejecting pleas from senior US officials to release Reed, who was nearing his 1,000th day in detention and whose health had recently deteriorated, according to his family.

A senior US official, who was not authorized to discuss the issue by name and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, described Reed’s case as one of ‘top priorities’ for the Biden administration, in particular because of his health. The official noted that Yaroshenko, whose sentence has now been commuted, had already served the majority of his sentence.

“It was a difficult decision but one that we believe was worth it,” the official said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the exchange of Reed and Yaroshenko was “the result of a long process of negotiation”.

The two prisoners were exchanged in a European country. While officials wouldn’t say where the transfer took place, in the hours leading up to it, commercial flight trackers identified a plane belonging to Russia’s Federal Security Service as flying in Ankara, Turkey. The US Bureau of Prisons also updated its website overnight to say Yaroshenko was no longer in custody.

Reed was en route to the United States, traveling with Roger Cartsens, the US government’s presidential special envoy for hostage affairs.

The prisoner exchange marks the most high-profile release under the Biden administration of an American deemed wrongfully detained abroad and comes even as the families of detainees who have met with government officials over the past year administration had described them as favorable to the idea of ​​an exchange.

In a statement, the Reed family thanked President Joe Biden “for making the decision to bring Trevor home” along with other administration officials and Bill Richardson, the former US ambassador to the United Nations who , according to the family, traveled to Moscow in the hours before the Ukrainian war began in hopes of securing Reed’s release.

Reed was one of several Americans known to be detained by Russia, including WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was arrested in February after authorities said a search of her bag revealed a derivative of the cannabis, and Michigan corporate security officer Paul Whelan, who is being held on espionage-related charges, his family says are false. It was unclear whether Wednesday’s action could impact their cases.

Reed’s parents marked a rare private meeting with Biden and administration officials last month. They had stood weeks earlier along his motorcade route during a presidential visit to Texas in hopes of catching his attention, then protested outside the White House demanding a meeting.


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