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Russia Releases Marine in Surprise Prisoner Exchange With U.S.

Russia Releases Marine in Surprise Prisoner Exchange With U.S.

Russia and the United States have carried out an unexpected prisoner exchange in a time of high tensions, trading on Wednesday a Marine veteran jailed by Moscow for a convicted Russian drug trafficker serving a long prison sentence in America.

The deal involving Trevor Reed, an American imprisoned for nearly three years, would have been a notable diplomatic maneuver even in times of peace but it was all the more surprising because it was done as Russia’s war with Ukraine has driven relations with the U.S. to their lowest point in decades. In exchange, the Biden administration released Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who’d been serving a 20-year federal sentence for smuggling cocaine into the U.S.

But despite the surprising and encouraging news, the resolution didn’t address WNBA star Brittney Griner and Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, still remain jailed in Russia.

Reed, a 30-year-old former Marine from Texas, was arrested in the summer of 2019 after Russian authorities said he assaulted an officer while being driven by police to a police station following a night of heavy drinking. He was later sentenced to nine years in prison, though the U.S. government has described him as unjustly detained and pressed for his release while his family has asserted his innocence and expressed concerns about his deteriorating health, which included coughing up blood amid a hunger strike.

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A senior Biden administration official cautioned that the negotiations centered on a “discrete set of prisoner issues” and did not represent a change to the U.S. government’s condemnation of Russia’s violence against Ukraine. President Joe Biden met in Washington with Reed’s parents last month and hailed Reed’s release, saying only that “the negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly.” The Russian government also confirmed the deal, with the foreign ministry describing the exchange as the “result of a long negotiation process.”

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