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Russia frees US Marine vet in swap for drug trafficker imprisoned in America

US ex-marine Trevor Reed, charged with attacking police, stands inside a defendants' cage during his verdict hearing at Moscow's Golovinsky district court on July 30, 2020. (Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)
US ex-marine Trevor Reed stands inside a defendants' cage during his verdict hearing at Moscow's Golovinsky district court on July 30, 2020. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)

WASHINGTON — Russia and the United States carry out a dramatic prisoner exchange, trading a Marine veteran jailed in Moscow for a convicted Russian drug trafficker serving a long prison sentence in America, a senior US official says.

Today’s surprise deal would have been a notable diplomatic maneuver even in times of peace, but it was all the more extraordinary because it was done as Russia’s war with Ukraine has driven relations with the US to their lowest point in decades.

As part of the exchange, Russia released Trevor Reed, a former Marine from Texas who 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. Reed was later sentenced to nine years in prison, though his family has maintained his innocence and the US government has described him as unjustly detained.

The US agreed to return Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence in Connecticut for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US after he was arrested in Liberia in 2010 and extradited to the US.

Russia had sought his return for years while also rejecting entreaties by high-level US officials to release Reed, who was nearing his thousandth day in custody and whose health had recently been worsening, according to his family.

The two prisoners were swapped in a European country. Though officials would not say where the transfer took place, in the hours before it happened commercial flight trackers identified a plane belonging to Russia’s federal security service as flying to Ankara, Turkey. The US Bureau of Prisons also updated its website overnight to reflect that Yaroshenko was no longer in custody.

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