Russia releases US Marine vet as part of prisoner exchange
Russia and the United States have carried out a dramatic prisoner exchange, trading a Marine veteran jailed in Moscow for a convicted Russian drug trafficker serving a long prison sentence in America, a senior US official and the Russian foreign ministry said.
The surprise deal on Wednesday would have been a notable diplomatic manoeuvre even in times of peace, but it was all the more extraordinary because it was done as Russia’s war with Ukraine has driven relations with the US to their lowest point in decades.
As part of the exchange, Russia released Trevor Reed, a former Marine from Texas who was arrested in the summer of 2019 after Russian authorities said he assaulted an officer while being driven by police to a police station following a night of heavy drinking. Reed was later sentenced to nine years in prison, though his family has maintained his innocence and the US government has described him as unjustly detained.
The US agreed to return Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence in Connecticut for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US after he was arrested in Liberia in 2010 and extradited to the US.
Russia had sought his return for years while also rejecting entreaties by high-level US officials to release Reed, who was nearing his 1000th day in custody and whose health had recently been worsening, according to his family.
A senior US official, who was not authorised to discuss the matter by name and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, described Reed’s case as one of “utmost priority” for the Biden administration, including because of his health. The official noted that Yaroshenko, whose sentence has now been commuted, had already served the majority of his sentence.
“It was a difficult decision but one that we thought was worth it,” the official said.
The Russian foreign ministry said the exchange of Reed and Yaroshenko was “a result of a long negotiation process”.