The United States and Russia carried out an unexpected prisoner exchange during a period of extremely high tensions and extremely low relations between the two countries.
A Marine veteran jailed by Moscow was traded for a convicted Russian drug trafficker who was serving a long prison sentence stateside.
American Trevor Reed was imprisoned for nearly three years in Moscow and returned back to American soil today. Reed had been sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2020 for endangering the “life and health” of Russian police officers in an altercation, allegations which Reed and his family have continuously denied.
At the other end of the exchange was Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenka, who was serving a 20-year federal sentence for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the U.S.
The deal would have been a notable diplomatic maneuver even in times of peace, experts say. But it was all the more surprising considering that U.S.-Russia relations are at the lowest point in decades due to Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine.
While the Biden administration trumpeted the exchange, the administration also made it clear that this resolution did not bring with it a broader breakthrough between the U.S. and Russia.
The swap also did not hint at the fates of other detained Americans in Russia, including WNBA star Brittney Griner and Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, both of whom remain jailed in Russia.
The exchange of Reed for Yaroshenka comes following longstanding requests by both countries as well as private diplomatic wrangling. The two were exchanged in Turkey. Part of the urgent requests for Reed to be released over the past few months came due to health concerns.
President Joe Biden hailed Reed’s release and noted without elaboration that the negotiations required difficult decisions that he did not take lightly.