Lawmakers call for the release of former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed in Russia during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on July 29, 2021. Reed was released on Wednesday. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
April 27 (UPI) -- A former U.S. Marine who's been locked up in Russia for three years was released to return to the United States on Wednesday as part of a surprising prisoner exchange between the two countries, officials said.
U.S. and Russian officials said that the Marine, Trevor Reed, was part of the exchange. As part of the swap, U.S. authorities will release convicted drug trafficker Konstantin Yaroshenko to return to Russia.
Reed has been in Russia since 2019, when he was arrested after a night of drinking and accused of assaulting a police officer. A court later sentenced him to nine years in prison.
U.S. President Joe Biden met with Reed's family last month after it was reported that the former Marine had been denied medical treatment in Russia for exposure to tuberculosis while in prison.
The prisoner exchange caught many experts by surprise Wednesday, considering the soured relations between the United States and Russia over the war in Ukraine.
President Biden mentioned that his administration will keep working to free other Americans who are being held in Russia like Paul Whelan, who the president mentioned by name in his remarks Wednesday. Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI
"Today, we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family that missed him dearly," 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."
Biden acknowledged the difficulty in securing Reed's release and said that it involved making difficult decisions.
"The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly," he said. "His safe return is a testament to the priority my administration places on bringing home Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad."
Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, met Reed upon his release from detention and was on his way home, unnamed senior administration officials speaking to reporters via teleconference Wednesday morning said.
"He was in good spirits," one of the officials said. "He spoke to his family."
A second unnamed senior administration official confirmed to reporters that Biden commuted Yaroshenko's sentence to facilitate the prison swap but noted that the action "in no way undermines or diminishes the import of the finding of his guilt."
Biden mentioned that his administration will keep working to free other Americans who are being held in Russia such as Paul Whelan, who the president mentioned by name in his remarks Wednesday.
Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence after a Russian court convicted him of spying.
WNBA star Brittany Griner is also being detained in Russia. She was arrested on Feb. 17 on a charge of possessing cannabis oil. Last month, a Russian court extended Griner's prison term through May 19.
The unnamed officials said Wednesday that the negations with Russia over Reed's release were limited to the hostage exchange, and did not touch the Kremlin's ongoing war in Ukraine.
They also said that they are aware of the cases of Whelan, Griner and other Americans detained in Russia.
"We will continue to work on and attempt to find ways to address other cases as best we can," one of the officials said.