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Trevor Reed Is Coming Home: How the U.S. and Russia Just Managed a Prisoner Swap

Putin Russia
President of Russia Vladimir Putin Meeting with members of the Government (via videoconference).

On Wednesday, Trevor Reed, a former U.S Marine who was wrongfully detained in Russia in 2019, was swapped for a convicted Russian drug dealer. 

Prisoner For Prisoner 

Reed was exchanged for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot and drug dealer who had been convicted and was serving a 20-year sentence behind bars for his attempt to smuggle cocaine into the U.S.

The prisoner swap took place on an airport tarmac in Constantinople. The two men passed one another on their way to the aircraft that had brought their opposite, while officials from the two countries accompanied them. 

Reed was arrested in the summer of 2019 after Russian law enforcement claimed that he assaulted a police officer after a night of heavy drinking. The Russian legal system gave him nine years behind bars. 

“I am pleased to announce the release of U.S. citizen Trevor Reed, who was wrongfully detained in Russia. We extend our deep appreciation to our many allies and partners who helped us in this effort,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a press release

In addition to the State Department and FBI, several other federal agencies took part in the effort to free Reed. Usually, such negotiations take long periods of time as both sides are trying to reach a silver lining. 

“I also wish to commend Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Ambassador Carstens, Ambassador John Sullivan, and others in our government who have worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. We welcome this important release, while continuing to call for the release of wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan. We also remain committed to securing the freedom of all U.S. nationals wrongfully detained abroad,” Blinken added.

A Remarkable Swap 

What is most interesting about the prisoner swap between the two countries is that it took place at a heated moment in the two countries’ relationship. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russo-American relations have reached a low point they hadn’t reached since the Cold War. 

“Today, we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family that missed him dearly. Trevor, a former U.S. Marine, is free from Russian detention. 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,” U.S. President Joe Biden said

Biden has made it a goal of his administration to repatriate Americans who are wrongfully detained across the world. However, there are several others, including Paul Whelan, still imprisoned. 

“The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly. His safe return is a testament to the priority my Administration places on bringing home Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad. We won’t stop until Paul Whelan and others join Trevor in the loving arms of family and friends,” Biden added.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.