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Russia frees ex-marine Trevor Reed in prisoner swap

The United States and Russia announced a prisoner exchange on Wednesday that freed Trevor R. Reed, a former Marine who was convicted on charges his family said were false, an unexpected diplomatic breakthrough with tensions heightened by the war in Ukraine.

Mr Reed, originally detained in August 2019, was released in exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a long sentence in the United States for trafficking cocaine.

“Trevor, a former U.S. Marine, is free from Russian detention,” President Biden said in a statement. “I heard in the voices of Trevor’s parents how worried they were for his health and how much they missed his presence. And I was thrilled to be able to share with them the good news of Trevor’s freedom.

The agreement was the result of “long negotiations”, according to Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Credit…Artyom Geodakyan/TASS, via Alamy

Mr Reed’s family confirmed his release in a statement, saying they would now focus on “the myriad health issues brought on by the squalid conditions to which he was subjected in his Russian gulag”.

Originally from Texas, Mr Reed traveled to Russia in May 2019 to visit his Russian girlfriend, whom he had met on a dating site, and take language lessons. A week before his planned return to the United States, Mr Reed went to a party in a park outside Moscow, where he drank copious amounts of vodka.

Mr Reed then became agitated, prompting his girlfriend and friends to call the police. Officers who arrived at the scene decided to take him to the police station, where Mr Reed was questioned by Russian security officers. Shortly after, he is accused of assaulting and endangering the lives of the two police officers who had taken him there.

After spending more than 11 months in a Russian prison, Mr Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison, the first time such a severe sentence had been carried out for this type of crime, his lawyers said. At one point during a hearing, Mr Reed said the case against him was political and linked his problems in Russia to his military affiliation.

In his statement, Mr Biden said: “The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly”, although no further details were available in the immediate.

Other Americans are still being held in Russia, including Paul Whelan, sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison for espionage in a trial closed to the public; and Brittney Griner, a basketball star who was arrested in mid-February on drug trafficking charges that could carry a sentence of up to 10 years.

nytimes Eur

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