Despite the Ukraine war: Russia and the USA exchange prisoners

Amid the Ukraine conflict, Russia and the US have surprisingly carried out a long-discussed prisoner swap.

Russia released American Trevor Reed and received Konstantin Yaroshenko, who had been convicted in the United States, as the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday. US President Joe Biden confirmed Reed’s release in Washington.

Come about surprisingly

Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed the exchange at their summit in Geneva in June 2021. In view of the tense relations between the two countries, whose relationship has once again drastically deteriorated as a result of the Ukraine war, the development is particularly unexpected.

Judgment “absurd theater”

The United States had repeatedly demanded the release of 30-year-old Reed. He was sentenced to nine years in a prison camp in July 2020 – for allegedly assaulting police officers and resisting Russian state authority while drunk. The US ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, had criticized the verdict as “absurd theatre”. Reed’s family had also appealed to the US government to do everything possible to get the student released. The Russian pilot Yaroshenko was sentenced to 20 years in prison in the United States in 2010 for drug smuggling.

“Like in the movie”

Reed’s parents told CNN on Wednesday that they could have spoken to their son after his release. According to Trevor, he was flown out via Turkey. “The American plane landed next to the Russian one, and they walked both prisoners over at the same time, like you see in the film,” said Trevor Reed’s father, Joey. After taking off from Turkey, Trevor then called.

The Interfax agency reported that Yaroshenko had been flown from the Turkish capital Ankara to the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi in a special Antonov An-148 aircraft.

Reed’s Russian lawyer, Sergei Nikitenkov, said the American did not initiate the exchange himself, nor did he seek a pardon from the Russian president. “But he agrees with the exchange, approves it, but Trevor has not admitted his guilt,” emphasized Nikitenkov.

health worrying

Reed’s parents said their son was examined by a doctor on the plane. They are worried about their son’s health. “We pray he doesn’t have tuberculosis, but we’re still worried because he’s been coughing up blood for months,” said father Joey Reed.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Reed needed urgent medical attention because of his medical condition. This made the negotiations so urgent.

Channels of talks with Russia open

The unexpected exchange of prisoners shows that, despite the current extreme tensions, there are still diplomatic channels of communication between Moscow and Washington. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had recently publicly warned of a Third World War and said that, unlike in earlier times of particular tension, there is no longer a direct line between Moscow and Washington to communicate in an emergency.

Regarding the prisoner swap, Biden said: “Today we welcome Trevor Reed home and celebrate his return to his family, who missed him dearly.” The former US soldier is no longer in Russian captivity. Biden thanked Sullivan and others for efforts to secure Reed’s release. The negotiations required “difficult decisions,” he emphasized, without becoming more specific. Biden promised the US government would continue to seek the release of other wrongly imprisoned Americans. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a similar statement.



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