- The Washington Times
Wednesday, April 27, 2022

President Biden said Wednesday that Trevor Reed, a former Marine, has been released from Russian custody and is being returned to his family as part of a prisoner exchange.

Mr. Biden signaled that talks with the Russians, who have been globally isolated over their invasion of Ukraine, involved thorny tradeoffs.

“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.”

The U.S. agreed to release Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence in Connecticut for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the U.S.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Yaroshenko had served the majority of his sentence for a nonviolent drug crime and the president was deeply concerned about Mr. Reed‘s health in Russia.

“Our effort and our objective was to take steps that we needed to take to bring him home knowing his health conditions and knowing he‘s been held for too long,” she said.

Ms. Psaki said the U.S. did not agree to other conditions with Russia beyond Yaroshenko’s release.

The prisoner swap was all the more remarkable because the U.S. and other countries have been arming Ukraine to fend off Russia’s unprovoked invasion.

Mr. Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2020 for endangering the “life and health” of Russian police officers in a fight, though Mr. Reed and his family have denied the charges.

Mr. Reed‘s parents recently met with Mr. Biden to plead for their son’s release. They describe medical problems he sustained while incarcerated.

“I heard in the voices of Trevor‘s parents how much they’ve worried about his health and missed his presence,” Mr. Biden said Wednesday. “And I was delighted to be able to share with them the good news about Trevor‘s freedom.”

The Reed family thanked a long list of politicians, celebrities and lawmakers who advocated for Mr. Reed.

“First and foremost, we’d like to thank President Biden for his kindness, his consideration, and for making the decision to bring Trevor home,” Joey, Paula and Taylor Reed said through a public relations firm. “The president’s action may have saved Trevor‘s life.”

They also thanked House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and members of the congressional delegation from Texas.

“While we understand the interest in Trevor’s story — and as soon as he‘s ready, he‘ll tell his own story, we’d respectfully ask for some privacy while we address the myriad of health issues brought on by the squalid conditions he was subjected to in his Russian gulag,” the family said.

Mr. Biden credited the work of Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, and John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, for securing Mr. Reed‘s release.

He said other Americans must be released from Russian custody — including Paul Whelan, a Canada-born U.S. resident who was accused of spying.

WNBA star Brittney Griner has been detained since February after a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges with oil from cannabis. Officials fear she’s being used as a political hostage.

“We stand proudly with the Whelan family and all the other families of wrongfully detained Americans who are still waiting for their own release moment,” the Reed family said. “We will continue to advocate for the rapid release of hostages and detainees using all tools available to the United States government.”

Ms. Psaki said the White House has been in contact with the families of other detainees but declined to discuss the nature of those conversations.

“Using wrongful detention as a bargaining chip presents a threat to the safety of everyone traveling, working and living abroad. We obviously oppose this practice everywhere,” Ms. Psaki said.

Parents Joey and Paula Reed said after speaking with their son on the phone that he was flown from Moscow to Turkey, where the prisoner swap took place between two planes on an airport runway.

“They walked both prisoners across at the same time, like you see in the movies,” the elder Mr. Reed said on CNN. “He [Trevor] was in the air when he called us and told us. He sounds kind of subdued. I think he’s a little overwhelmed.”

Mrs. Reed said Mr. Biden called while they were on the phone with their son.

“We told the president obviously that we were very grateful for his quick action,” she said. “He said ‘I’m happy for you, congratulations.’ When he found out we were on the other line talking to Trevor, he said, ‘Well if you’re talking to Trevor, you don’t want to talk to me. I’ll let you go.’ He was so kind.”

She said her son was being checked out by a doctor on the plane. The family has concerns that Trevor was exposed to tuberculosis in prison.

He just said, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine,’” Mrs. Reed said. “At least he‘s being checked out.”

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, praised the president, State Department officials and lawmakers who worked for Mr. Reed‘s release.

Trevor Reed survived a real-life nightmare, held in a Russian prison for nearly 1000 days with little to no access to health care or communication with his family,” Mr. Cornyn tweeted. “I’m relieved Trevor will return home to his family in TX, who were relentless in the fight to secure his release.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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