Navy veteran Trevor Reed released from Russia in US prisoner exchange : NPR

Joey Reed, the father of former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, stands next to a sign of his son during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on July 29, 2021.

Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

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Joey Reed, the father of former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, stands next to a sign of his son during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on July 29, 2021.

Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration and Trevor Reed’s family say the US Navy veteran is safely out of Russian prison and on his way back to the United States. The decision follows years of advocacy by his family and recent reports that his health was rapidly declining.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Reed was swapped for imprisoned pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko in a prisoner exchange that took place in an unspecified European country. Yaroshenko was sentenced in 2011 to 20 years in prison for conspiring to import more than $100 million worth of cocaine into the United States.

“Today we welcome Trevor Reed home and celebrate his return to his much missed family. Trevor, a former U.S. Marine, is released from Russian custody,” Biden said in a statement. “I heard in the voices of Trevor’s parents how worried they were for his health and how much they missed his presence. And I was thrilled to be able to share with them the good news about Trevor’s freedom.”

Biden said, “The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home involved tough decisions that I don’t take lightly.” He did not specify.

Reed was arrested during a trip to the country in 2019 and charged with assaulting a Moscow police officer. He was sentenced in 2020 to nine years in prison. He says he does not remember the events of that night because he was drunk and his family accused Russian officials of fabricating the accusation. John Sullivan, the US ambassador to Russia, said the alleged crime “obviously did not happen” and called his trial “a theater of the absurd”.

The 30-year-old had recently made headlines for leading a second hunger strike in prison to protest his treatment by Russian authorities, saying he was not being treated for symptoms of a possible tuberculosis and that he had instead been placed in solitary confinement. His parents, Joey and Paula Reed, staged a protest outside the White House last month to raise awareness of his situation and (successfully) push for an in-person meeting with Biden.

A Russian court decided to delay Reed’s appeal during a hearing earlier this month, and he was expected to remain in jail as the appeal was sent to a lower court.

In an unexpected but welcome turn of events, the family announced Wednesday that Reed had been released after being wrongfully detained for 985 days.

“While we understand the value of Trevor’s story – and when he’s ready he’ll tell his own story – we respectfully ask for some privacy as we address the myriad health issues brought on by the squalid conditions he was subjected to in his Russian gulag,” they added.

In a statement shared through their spokesperson, the Reeds thanked a slew of local and federal elected officials and diplomatic personnel for standing up for their son and helping secure his release. They specifically credited Biden with “making the decision to bring Trevor home,” saying the decision may have saved his life.

As the Biden administration and Reed’s family celebrate his release, they are also drawing attention to the plight of other Americans detained in Russia. These include Paul Whelan, who was arrested in Moscow in 2018 for spying, and WNBA star Brittney Griner.

“We welcome this important release, while continuing to call for the release of wrongfully detained US citizen Paul Whelan,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “We also remain committed to securing the freedom of all U.S. nationals wrongfully detained abroad.”

Reed’s family said they support the families of Whelan and all other wrongfully detained Americans “who are still waiting for their own moment of release” and pledged to continue to defend their freedom.

Biden called Reed’s return a testament to the priority his administration has placed on repatriating Americans held hostage overseas.

“We won’t stop until Paul Whelan and others join Trevor in the loving arms of his family and friends,” he added.

This story originally appeared in the morning edition live blog.

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