Russia exchanged American citizen Trevor Reed, who was serving a prison sentence in the country, for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who, in turn, was serving a lengthy sentence in the US, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.
The ministry added that the exchange, which took place on April 27, was a result of a lengthy negotiations process with the US, RIA Novosti reported.
Reed was reportedly taken to Vnukovo airport in Moscow and has since left for the US. Yaroshenko’s wife, in turn, said that the pilot’s exchange took place in Turkey.
US President Joe Biden issued a statement following Reed’s release saying that the exchange was not easy to achieve, and that Washington will continue efforts to negotiate the release of other US nationals serving sentences in the Russian prisons, such as former marine and Michigan police officer Paul Whelan, who was accused of espionage.
“The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly,” Biden said.
Yaroshenko was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of planning to smuggle four tonnes of cocaine into the US. He was arrested in Liberia in 2010 and extradited to the US, where he was found guilty and sentenced in September 2011.
Yaroshenko insisted on his innocence and said he hasn’t transported any cargo since the dissolution of the USSR.
Russia slammed the US for failing to notify its consular services about the arrest and extradition of the Russian citizen, branding it a “kidnapping” organised by the American government and a violation of international diplomatic laws.
Reed was sentenced to 9 years in prison after he resisted arrest and assaulted police officers in August 2019. Moscow police arrived responding to a call over unruly behaviour – Reed was arguing with two women. After resisting arrest and being put into a police car, he assaulted the officers again, en route to a police station, creating a small road accident as a result. Reed later pledged not guilty and said he didn’t remember the events described by the police because he was heavily drunk.