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Trevor Reed, a former US marine who spent 985 days in Russian detention on charges of reportedly assaulting police officers, was released in a prisoner exchange on Wednesday.
Mr Reed, from Fort Worth, Texas, had been sentenced to nine years in prison following an incident that allegedly occurred while he was visiting his girlfriend and taking Russian classes in Moscow in 2019.
On August 15, Mr Reed and his girlfriend, Alina Tsybulink, went to a party, where he became intoxicated. As the couple were driven home, Mr Reed asked the driver to pull the car over, Ms Tsybulink told Radio Free Europe.
Ms Tsybulink’s friends called the police hoping they could help take care of Mr Reed. After police arrived, the former marine was arrested.
His family said his case was filled with inconsistencies and changing narratives from the very beginning and the US ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, called the case “absurd".
While in custody, Mr Reed’s health suffered. He contracted Covid-19 in May 2021 and was exposed to tuberculosis in February of this year.
In November, he went on a hunger strike to protest his treatment and detention.
His parents, Joey and Paula Reed, worked tirelessly to rally international support for their son.
“For the past 985 days, Trevor has been wrongfully detained for a ‘crime’ the US ambassador to Russia has said obviously did not occur and our family has been living a nightmare,” the Reed family said in a statement.
Mr Reed was exchanged for a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was arrested in Liberia in 2010 for drug trafficking and transferred to the US, where he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in September 2011.
His release comes amid historic tension between Washington and Moscow over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The US has stressed that the swap does not signal any change in Washington's views towards Moscow.
Americans who remain detained in Russia
Women’s basketball star Britney Griner was detained at a Moscow airport in February for reportedly carrying several cannabis oil vape cartridges.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told reporters this month that the league is “doing everything we can” to bring the Phoenix Mercury star home.
Griner is scheduled to make a court appearance on May 19 and could face up to 10 years in a Russian prison if convicted.
Former US marine Paul Whelan was arrested in 2018 on espionage charges, which he has consistently denied. A Russian court sentenced him to 16 years in prison in a trial that has been denounced by the US.
He is currently being held in a Russian labour camp.
Mr Whelan's family called Mr Reed's release "bittersweet." His twin brother, David, said the family was thrilled that Mr Reed was on his way home, but were concerned what it meant for the 52-year-old from Michigan.
"In Paul's case, not only is Mr Yaroshenko no longer a concession the US government can make but Mr Boot, the Merchant of Death, which is another prisoner that the Russian government has been trying to get back, is clearly a bridge too far for the American government," Mr Whelan told The National.
,"And so now we sort of have concessions that have been moved off the table."
Mr Whelan said it limits the options the US government has to bring his brother home.
He said his brother was "frustrated" over not having been included in the swap and asked their parents: 'Why am I being left behind?'
A resolution sponsored by Haley M Stevens, a US representative from Michigan, and co-sponsored by 41 other members of Congress implores Russia to present credible evidence of wrongdoing against Mr Whelan or release him immediately.
It also calls on Russia to provide unrestricted consular access to him to ensure his rights are being respected.