Trevor Reed, the former US Marine recently freed from nearly three years of Russian captivity, has called on the US government to negotiate a prisoner exchange like the one that freed him to bring home Americans Paul Whelan, a former Marine, and WNBA player Brittney Griner, both detained in Russia.
Reed and his parents, Joey and Paula Reed, told ABC News that if that meant freeing Whelan and Griner, the United States should trade Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence, and which Russia has floated as a possible candidate for an exchange.
“I think the United States should make any type of deal to get Paul out. And if that includes a trade, I think they absolutely should,” Reed, 30, said in a statement. long interview with ABC News on Saturday, one of the first he has given since his release.
Bout, dubbed the “merchant of death” by the media and a notorious arms dealer, has been pursued for more than a decade by Western governments and is widely suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence. He was eventually captured in a US-led sting operation. Drug Enforcement Administration in Thailand and extradited to the United States
He was convicted in 2012 of federal narco-terrorism charges for agreeing, during the sting, to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to Colombian terrorists who allegedly targeted Americans. In reality, the supposed Colombian arms buyers were part of the DEA infiltration.
From the moment of his arrest, Russia sought to remove Bout, tried to block his extradition in 2008, and Russian media and state officials lobbied for years for his release. Since Whelan was seized in 2018, Bout has been repeatedly suggested by Russian state media as a possible trade for him and Reed and last week for Griner.
“Viktor Bout has already been in prison for 15 years,” Reed said, adding that any value he had for Russian intelligence has long since disappeared. “He’s no longer a threat. He’s paid for this crime. Maybe not as much as, you know, the US government would have liked him to, but he paid for it.”
Reed said the United States should try to free the two Americans, who both face lengthy sentences in Russia, in exchange for a man who will likely be released from prison in a few years.
“Fifteen years in prison is no joke. And, you know, the fact is, Paul has another 13 years in prison. And Brittney, who knows how long she’s going to be sentenced? She may have ten years in prison. prison. So you get two Americans who are going to have a long time to serve for a guy who is coming out soon – who has already been in prison for 15 years, ”he said.
“And I think they have to,” he said. “If it’s for Viktor Bout, I don’t care. I don’t care if it’s 100 Victor Bouts. They have to get our guys out.”
Whelan was arrested in December 2018 on his way to Moscow for a friend’s wedding and charged with espionage by Russian intelligence agents. He is being held on espionage charges which the US government says were also fabricated to take him as a bargaining chip. Whelan is in a prison camp in Mordovia, sentenced to 16 years.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was traveling to Russia to play off-season basketball and was arrested in February at a Moscow-area airport for allegedly having vape cartridges in her luggage containing hashish oil – – an illegal substance in Russia.
The US government considers Griner to be “wrongfully detained” in Russia, the State Department said.
“With this determination, the President’s Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, Roger Carstens, will lead the interagency team tasked with securing the release of Brittney Griner,” a State Department spokesperson said. American at ABC News this month.
Reed was released from a Russian prison on April 27 when the Biden administration orchestrated a prisoner swap with the Russian government for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot sentenced in 2011 to 20 years in prison for conspiring to smuggle from cocaine in the United States.
US administrations have traditionally been reluctant to conduct prisoner exchanges, fearing it could set a precedent that encourages hostile governments to seize more Americans.
Reed rejected that position, saying such governments would continue to target Americans regardless and were already doing so.
“That is completely inaccurate. It’s not a concern at all, because, you know, countries like, you know, Russia, China, Venezuela, Rwanda, Iran, Syria, places like that have absolutely no need for incitement to kidnap Americans,” he said.
“Even if they got nothing out of it, just for the simple fact that they could show the United States that we have your citizens here and that we are not afraid of you,” he said. .
Reed’s father, Joey Reed, who spent more than a year in Russia trying to free his son and picketed the White House, said he believed the government needed to act with more urgency .
” Do not mistake yourself ; we are very grateful that President Biden made the decision to trade for Trevor. And what we want is we want this to continue,” Joey Reed said. “If there’s no other way to get an American citizen home, do it. Don’t expect them to be there for 20 years. Don’t wait until they are close to death.”
In an interview with ABC News earlier this month, Paul Whelan’s brother David said Paul spoke with his parents after Reed’s release and said the news hit him hard.
“He asked, ‘Why was I left behind? ‘” David Whelan said. “And we still don’t really have a good answer to that.”
Trevor Reed told ABC News he was speaking “to make the American people realize that this is not an isolated situation.”
“We have political prisoners all over the world who are hurting and need our help,” Reed said.
Speaking of Whelan, Reed got emotional.
“He was in worse prisons than me. His situation is much worse than mine and we have to do everything we can to get him out at all costs,” Reed said.
Reed said that when he found out his release was part of a prisoner swap, he assumed Whelan would also be released. But Whelan was left behind.
“I thought it was wrong, that they took me out and not Paul,” Reed said. “I knew that as soon as I was able, I would fight to get him out and I would do everything I could to get him out of there. The United States got me out, but they took him out. left there. I can’t describe to you how painful that feeling is.”