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Russia Releases Former U.S. Marine in Prisoner Swap

The United States and Russia announced on Wednesday a prisoner swap that has freed Trevor R. Reed, a former Marine who was convicted on charges that his family said were bogus, an unexpected diplomatic breakthrough with tensions running high over the Ukraine war.

Mr. Reed, who was initially detained in August 2019, was released in exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot sentenced to a lengthy term in the United States on cocaine-trafficking charges.

“Trevor, a former U.S. Marine, is free from Russian detention,” President 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.”

The agreement was the result of “lengthy negotiations,” according to Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Konstantin Yaroshenko’s mother, left, and his wife, with a picture of him during a news conference in Moscow in 2016.Credit…Artyom Geodakyan/TASS, via Alamy

Mr. Reed’s family confirmed his release in a statement, saying that they would now concentrate on “the myriad of health issues brought on by the squalid conditions he was subjected to in his Russian gulag.”

A native of Texas, Mr. Reed traveled to Russia in May 2019 to visit his Russian girlfriend, whom he had met on a dating website, and to take language lessons. One week before his planned return to the United States, Mr. Reed went to a party at a park outside Moscow, where he drank extensive amounts of vodka.

Mr. Reed then got agitated, prompting his girlfriend and friends to call the police. Officers who arrived at the scene decided to take him to a police station, where Mr. Reed was interviewed by Russian security agents. Shortly after, he was accused of assaulting and endangering the lives of the two police officers who had driven him there.

After spending more than 11 months in a Russian jail, Mr. Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison, the first time that such a severe punishment had been applied for that type of crime, his lawyers said. At one point during a hearing, Mr. Reed said that the case against him was political and linked his troubles in Russia to his military affiliation.

In his statement, Mr. Biden said, “The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly,” though no additional details were immediately available.

Other Americans remain in detention in Russia, including Paul Whelan, who was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison on espionage charges during a trial that was closed to the public; and Brittney Griner, a basketball star who was arrested in mid-February on drug charges that could carry a sentence of up to 10 years.

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