With escalating tensions between the U.S. and Russia, it came as a shock to many that the two countries were able to compromise a prisoner swap. Ex-marine, current hero Trevor Reed had touched down on American soil for the first time since his initial arrest in August of 2019.
While visiting his Russian girlfriend, Reed is said to have gotten intoxicated at a party and, while driving back, got pulled over. Overwhelmed with alcohol and intimidation from getting pulled over, Reed got forced out of the car because he had gotten sick. Still, under his alcohol blanket, the ex-marine proceeded to run around the area. Back up was then called, and The Russian police took Reed into custody.
Reed was charged in Russia in 2019 with endangering the lives of two police officers while drunk on a visit to Moscow. He was accused of attacking, grabbing the police car’s steering wheel, and causing it to swerve. Eventually, video evidence came out showing that those accusations never occurred. Reed has pleaded not guilty to all Russian charges filed against him.
After a four-month court case riddled with delays, Reed was found guilty and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison colony. The U.S. had labeled his trial a “theater of the absurd.” During his time as a prisoner, his family feared for his well-being. Following having a cell-mate with Tuburculoisis in December, Reed also inflicted a week-long hunger strike on himself to protest the harsh punishments and treatments he was being subjected to. After ending his strike in April, Russia reported that he was being monitored in the prison’s medical center.
As Reed was forced into a new reality, his parents hoped for their son to return home safely. Senior Biden administration officials said the months of tense diplomacy that led to Reed’s release focused strictly on securing his freedom and were not the beginnings of discussions on other issues such as Ukraine.
After meeting with U.S. President Biden a week before his release, the Reed family was unknowingly sitting on the cusp of their sons’ freedom. Before landing at an undisclosed airport, Reed’s parents were given two phone calls on Wednesday. Reed’s parents described that he did not sound like himself during the first call. They had expressed concern for his health due to his exposure to Tuberculosis in December and the possibility of lingering symptoms from Covid. But by their second call, the parents said Reed was cracking jokes, saying that he must’ve received an infusion or something similar. They ended their statement by saying he was in good spirits, despite some health issues.
Reed, 30, was released on Wednesday on an airport tarmac in Ankara, Turkey, in exchange for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko. Yaroshenko was arrested by American special forces in Liberia in 2010 and convicted of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the United States. Russia had proposed a prisoner swap for Yaroshenko in July 2019 in exchange for any American. The swap occurred in Turkey, a NATO ally, for its help in the trade.
While describing the exchange, Reed’s father, Joey Reed, said, “The American plane pulled up next to the Russian plane, and they walked both prisoners as you would see in the movies,” Although the two prisoners walked past each other, they did not interact. With one Russian officer on each side of Reed, he would soon get to feel and experience the word’ home.’
Reed was unfortunately not an isolated incident. Two other Americans are currently imprisoned in Russia. Paul Whelan, 52, is also a former Marine. Whelan was sentenced to 16 years on espionage charges in June 2020 and has countlessly denied the charges. Reed’s release left both Whelan and his family feeling hopeless, releasing statements of concern about prospects for his release now that a prisoner who Russia had wanted back since 2019 had been exchanged. They ended their message with a question from Whelan asking his parents, “Why was I left behind?”
U.S. basketball star Griner was detained at a Moscow airport on February 17 when a search of her luggage allegedly revealed multiple cannabis oil vape cartridges. The athlete is facing up to ten years in jail. Her lawyers and team have seen her regularly and have said that she looks well.
As tensions continue to skyrocket and the prisoner Russia had wanted since 2019 got swapped back, these two prisoners are faced with looking at their current harsh reality and hoping for better days. U.S. President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have addressed Paul Whelan and his family by saying they were currently working to free him.
Photos of Reed standing with his family and a Texas congressman at an undisclosed airport were put out in an early morning Twitter post by the lawmaker, August Pfluger.