Marine Veteran Jailed in Russian ‘Gulag’ Free After Prisoner Swap

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Trevor Reed, a former presidential guard Marine, was released from a Russian jail this week after nearly 1,000 days of imprisonment on what US officials have called “laughable” charges. Photos courtesy Reed family.

Trevor Reed, a former presidential guard Marine, was released from a Russian jail Wednesday, April 27, 2022, after nearly 1,000 days of imprisonment on what US officials have called “laughable” charges. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

In a surprise deal, a Marine who had spent nearly 1,000 days as prisoner in a Russian jail on charges US officials have called “laughable” was released Wednesday, April 27, in a swap for a Russian citizen.

Trevor Reed, who is now 30, served as a member of the highly select Marine presidential guard unit at Marine Barracks Washington, including as a member of the Marine Security Company Camp David, his parents told The Dallas Morning News last year.

Originally from Hood County, Texas, Reed was arrested in Moscow in 2019 for allegedly assaulting police officers who were driving him to a police station after an episode of public drunkenness. He was sentenced to nine years in prison. “He’s been detained and convicted on evidence that is laughable,” US Ambassador John Sullivan said in 2020.

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Trevor Reed’s family asks for privacy. “As soon as he’s ready, he’ll tell his own story,” they said. Photo via the Free Trevor Reed website.

Trevor Reed’s family asks for privacy. “As soon as he’s ready, he’ll tell his own story,” they said. Picture from Free Trevor Reed website.

“For the past 985 days, Trevor has been wrongfully detained for a ‘crime’ the U.S. Ambassador to Russia has said ‘obviously did not occur’ and our family has been living a nightmare,” Reed’s family said in a statement. “Today our prayers have been answered and Trevor is safely on his way back to the United States.”

“Today, we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family that missed him dearly,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Wednesday morning, noting that “the negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly.”

As part of a negotiated exchange, the US released Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was 11 years into a 20-year federal sentence in the US. Yaroshenko was arrested in Liberia and sentenced in 2011 for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US. Yaroshenko “agreed to play a vital role in a vast, international drug conspiracy that attempted to transform the country of Liberia into a transshipment hub” for cocaine, US Attorney Preet Bharara said upon Yaroshenko’s sentencing.

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Reed served with the Marine presidential guard unit during the Obama administration. Photo via the Free Trevor Reed website.

“He’s been detained and convicted on evidence that is laughable,” U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan said in 2020. Photo from Free Trevor Reed website.

A senior US official speaking to The Associated Press said that the negotiations between the US and Russia were solely about a “discrete set of prisoner issues” and would not affect the tensions between the two countries over the war in Ukraine.

“Where we can have discussions on issues of mutual interest we will try to talk to the Russians and have a constructive conversation without any way changing our approach to the appalling violence in Ukraine,” the official told the AP.

Reed’s family has recently said that Reed was showing symptoms of tuberculosis. “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,” they said.

Reed is not the only American currently imprisoned in Russia. WNBA star Brittney Griner has been detained since February after Russian authorities found cannabis in her luggage at an airport. Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate executive who received a bad conduct discharge from the Marine Reserves in 2008, has been jailed on espionage charges since 2018.

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Maggie BenZvi is a contributing editor for Coffee or Die. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago, a master’s degree in human rights from Columbia University, and has worked for the ACLU as well as the International Rescue Commitee. She has also completed a summer journalism program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In addition to her work at Coffee or Die, she’s a stay at home mom and, notably, does not drink coffee. Got a tip? Get in touch!
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