Parents of Trevor Reed happy at release of US Marine in Russia

Trevor Reed being escorted to the plane out of Russia on Wednesday
Trevor Reed being escorted to the plane out of Russia on Wednesday

The parents of a US Marine freed in a prisoner swap with Russia have spoken of their joy at his release.

Trevor Reed had been held in a Russian jail since 2019. He was traded for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian jailed on drug-smuggling charges.

Speaking outside the Reed home in Texas, his mother said she felt “almost as good as the day he was born”.

Reed is currently on his way back to the US, where he is expected to spend several days in hospital.

President Joe Biden said he had been “delighted” to share the news of Mr Reed’s return with his parents in a phone call.

“The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly,” he said.

According to parents Joey and Paula Reed, their son was poorly treated in prison and appeared to have contracted tuberculosis.

The couple protested outside the White House last month, ultimately securing a meeting with the president.

In a media interview outside their home in a suburb of Dallas on Wednesday, they thanked Mr Biden, who his father said “probably saved our son’s life”.

They added that Mr Biden’s phone call came while they were on the other line with their son. When they told the president they were at that very moment speaking with Trevor, Mr Biden told them to hang up on him.

“Anyone who says he’s [Mr Biden’s] not a compassionate or kind man is just a liar or an idiot,” his father said about Mr Biden.

Mr Reed, 30, went to Moscow in 2019 to learn Russian and visit his Russian girlfriend.

On a drunken night out, he was detained by two police officers after attending a party. While being driven to the police station, he is said to have grabbed the police officer driving, causing him to swerve, and elbowed the other officer who tried to intervene.

Maintaining that he had no recollection of the incident, he pleaded not guilty but was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2020 on assault charges.

The US government raised concerns about the fairness of his trial, with US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan recently saying that Mr Reed “remains in prison for a crime he didn’t commit”.

Senior US officials said on Wednesday that Mr Reed’s release was “the result of months and months of hard, careful work” and there had been “growing concern” over his health while in detention.

The prisoner swap was carried out via Turkey after President Biden commuted the sentence of Mr Yaroshenko.

The Russian pilot had been serving a 20-year sentence since 2011 for smuggling cocaine into the US. Mr Yaroshenko’s lawyer has confirmed his client is also homeward bound.

Officials have said Wednesday’s exchange was not the start of a broader diplomatic dialogue with Russia and instead focused narrowly on a “discrete set of prisoner issues”.

In a statement, the family of Paul Whelan, a former US Marine being held on spying charges, said they were “full of happiness for the Reeds”, but time was running out for Mr Whelan.

“Paul has already spent three-and-a-quarter years as a Russian hostage,” they wrote. “Is President Biden’s failure to bring Paul home an admission that some cases are too hard to solve? Is the administration’s piecemeal approach picking low-hanging fruit?”

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