Washington: President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that Russia freed former US Marine Trevor Reed from detention, as Moscow said it arranged a prisoner swap to secure the return of pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who had been jailed on US drug charges.
“Today, we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family that missed him dearly,” Biden said in a statement. “Trevor, a former US Marine, is free from Russian detention.”
Biden did not reference a prisoner swap in his statement but said “the negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry, in a post on Telegram from spokeswoman Maria Zakharova minutes earlier, announced that “as a result of a lengthy negotiation process,” Reed was “exchanged for Russian citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison by an American court in 2010.”
The US Bureau of Prisons website listed Yaroshenko as “not in [BOP] custody.”
Reed’s family confirmed his release in a statement Wednesday, thanking Biden and saying his actions “may have saved Trevor’s life.”
“Today, our prayers have been answered and Trevor is safely on his way back to the United States,” it said.
Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2020 for endangering the “life and health” of Russian police officers after a drunken night out in Moscow a year earlier. He denied any wrongdoing.
In recent weeks, Reed’s family and US lawmakers have renewed calls for his release as his parents said his health was worsening. US lawmakers and diplomats have denounced his sentence, and the ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, described the evidence used to convict Reed as “ridiculous.”
Yaroshenko, a former Russian pilot, was serving a 20-year prison sentence at the Danbury, Conn., federal prison for conspiracy to bring drugs into the United States. He was picked up by authorities in Liberia and turned over to DEA officials, who sent him to the United States. His attorneys argued he had been entrapped by the DEA.
In 2010, Yaroshenko had met with two men about transporting large shipments of cocaine from South America into Liberia and then on to other destinations, including the United States, according to court documents. They were confidential sources for a long-running undercover Drug Enforcement Administration operation.
American officials repeatedly accused Russia of holding Reed as well as other US citizens as potential bargaining chips in a swap.
Yaroshenko is heading to Russia, his lawyer Alexei Tarasov said, according to Russian outlet Interfax. “According to my information, he is now heading home. The exchange took place in a third country,” Tarasov told Interfax.
Reed, who traveled from North Texas to Moscow to visit his girlfriend in 2019, pleaded not guilty to a charge of using violence to endanger the life or health of a government official performing his duties. He was convicted in July 2020 and sentenced to prison by a Moscow court in a case that Reed has described as “clearly political.”