Russia frees jailed US Marine Trevor Reed in exchange for convicted Russian drug trafficker

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

The U.S. and Russia have carried out a prisoner swap Wednesday, exchanging Trevor Reed – a Marine veteran jailed in Moscow – for a Russian drug trafficker who has been serving time in America, a senior U.S. official told the Associated Press. 

The deal comes as tensions between U.S. and Russia are running high, with Moscow’s bloody invasion of Ukraine in its 63rd day. 

“Today, we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family that missed him dearly. 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 much they’ve worried about his health and missed his presence. And I was delighted to be able to share with them the good news about Trevor’s freedom.”

Joey Reed, the father of former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, stands next to a placard of his son outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 29, 2021, during a press conference. 

Joey Reed, the father of former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, stands next to a placard of his son outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 29, 2021, during a press conference.  (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE: LIVE UPDATES 

In their own statement, the Reed family thanked Biden “for making the decision to bring Trevor home” as well as other administration officials and Bill Richardson, the former U.S. 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. 

“Today, our prayers have been answered and Trevor is safely on his way back to the United States,” the statement read, adding that “as soon as he’s ready, he’ll tell his own story” and that the Reed family stands with “all the other families of wrongfully detained Americans who are still waiting for their own release moment.” 

Reed was one of several Americans known to be held by Russia, including WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was detained in February after authorities said a search of her bag revealed a cannabis derivative, and Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, who is being held on espionage-related charges his family says are bogus. 

“We won’t stop until Paul Whelan and others join Trevor in the loving arms of family and friends,” Biden also said Wednesday.

U.S. senior administration officials said Wednesday that Reed, who is in “good spirits”, is currently heading back to America to be reunited with his family and that his health was an “intense concern” and driving factor leading to his release.

“This is a discreet issue in which we were able to make an arrangement with the Russians,” one official said about the prisoner swap. “It represents no change – zero – to our approach to the appalling violence in Ukraine.” 

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, on Feb. 15, 2022.

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, on Feb. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Reed, a now-30-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former presidential security guard, had been living in Russia in the summer of 2019 when was arrested by Russian police and accused of assaulting a police officer. He had been celebrating in a park with his longtime Russian girlfriend and her colleagues at the time, his father, Joey Reed, told Fox News Digital earlier this month.  

Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison, though his family has maintained his innocence and the U.S. government has described him as unjustly detained. 

“He was extremely intoxicated because they’d been to a party for her law firm in a park,” he explained.

At the time, Reed had been taking Russian language classes for an international studies degree through the University of North Texas, his father said.

Following a public trial, Reed was convicted in July 2020 of assaulting police officers and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Joey and Paula Reed, parents of U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Russian prisoner Trevor Reed, stand in Lafayette Park near the White House on March 30, 2022, in Washington. 

Joey and Paula Reed, parents of U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Russian prisoner Trevor Reed, stand in Lafayette Park near the White House on March 30, 2022, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

EU ACCUSES RUSSIA OF ‘BLACKMAIL’ AFTER IT CUTS GAS TO POLAND, BULGARIA

His time in Russian prisons and labor camps had been concerning, the family said.

“He was essentially in solitary confinement, I believe, for over a year in a pretty bad prison,” Reed said. “Once he got to the labor camp … they would wake him up every hour. You know, they were punishing him for different things.”

He added: “My son saw the sun maybe a dozen times in two years.”

Trevor pushed back against Russian authorities’ efforts to make him work at the labor camp, telling them: “I’m not working for you. You’ve taken me hostage, and I’m not going to make stuff for you to make money on.”

Trevor’s situation grew recently concerning in recent months after he became ill with active tuberculosis and then began continuously coughing up blood.

In the other side of the prisoner swap, the U.S. agreed to return Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence in Connecticut for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. after he was arrested in Liberia in 2010 and extradited to the U.S. 

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who was arrested for alleged spying, listens to the verdict in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, June 15, 2020. (Sofia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency photo via AP)

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who was arrested for alleged spying, listens to the verdict in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, June 15, 2020. (Sofia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency photo via AP) (Sofia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency photo via AP)

MOSCOW THREATENS TO HIT KYIV WITH LONG-RANGE MISSILES IF IT ATTACKS RUSSIAN SOIL

Russia had sought his return for years while also rejecting entreaties by high-level U.S. officials to release Reed, who was nearing his 1,000th day in custody. 

The two prisoners were swapped in a European country.  Though officials would not say where the transfer took place, in the hours before it happened commercial flight trackers identified a plane belonging to Russia’s federal security service as flying to Ankara, Turkey.  

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons also updated its website overnight to reflect that Yaroshenko was no longer in custody. 

A person familiar with the situation told Fox News Wednesday that the prisoner swap is an “extraordinary rarity” with regard to the Biden administration’s strategy in bringing Americans who are held hostage and unjustly detained around the globe home to the United States.

The “very difficult decision” made by the president was “driven by circumstances with respect to Trevor’s health,” the person told Fox News, adding that the Biden administration is “committed and the president is committed to trying to find ways to bring others home around the world.

“The person said that the president was willing to make the call because of how “strongly he feels about his commitment to bringing Americans home.”
The person said conversations regarding Reed’s return to the United States were ongoing for “months and months.”

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP 

The person stressed that Yaroshenko’s return to Russia was not something that “eradicated his conviction,” but rather a “commutation.” 

The person also noted that Yaroshenko served “more than a majority of his sentence.”

Fox News’ Stephanie Pagones, Brooke Singman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.