The Russian government released U.S. Marine veteran Trevor Reed on Wednesday after detaining him since August 2019.
“I am pleased to announce the release of U.S. citizen Trevor Reed, who was wrongfully detained in Russia,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday.
Reed had been jailed in Russia for nearly three years for allegedly assaulting Russian police officers in mid-August 2019.
Reed’s case was reportedly marred with inconsistent testimony. Police claimed Reed assaulted the officers after they placed him in a police vehicle, hitting one officer and pulling on the wheel of the car to cause it to swerve. Reed’s defense team was reportedly never given any copy of the video from inside the police vehicle, purporting to show Reed’s actions. Video shown in court did not appear to establish that Reed took any actions that caused the police vehicle to swerve.
Nevertheless, Reed was found guilty and was given a nine-year prison sentence in July 2020. After a September 2020 visit with Reed, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said in September of that year that the evidence against the Marine veteran had been “laughable.”
U.S. lawmakers and officials continued to call for Reed’s release and his legal team filed an appeal, which a Russian court denied in June of last year.
Russia’s state-run TASS news agency reported Reed was ultimately released in exchange for the U.S. release of Konstantin Yaroshenko, a former Russian pilot who had been convicted in a U.S. federal court on charges of attempting to smuggle drugs into the U.S. Yaroshenko had been sentenced in 2011 and was serving out a 20-year prison term at the time of his release.
In July 2019, just weeks before Reed’s arrest, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov had called on the U.S. to free Yaroshenko.
“We extend our deep appreciation to our many allies and partners who helped us in this effort,” Sullivan said following Reed’s release. “I also wish to commend Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Ambassador [Roger] Carstens, Ambassador John Sullivan, and others in our government who have worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome.”
Reed isn’t the only Marine veteran who has faced the prospect of a lengthy Russian prison sentence in recent years. Russian authorities arrested Marine veteran Paul Whelan in December of 2018. A Russian court handed Whelan a 16-year prison sentence, which began in July of 2020.
“We welcome this important release, while continuing to call for the release of wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan,” Blinken said. “We also remain committed to securing the freedom of all U.S. nationals wrongfully detained abroad.”