Just over three weeks ago, the United States and Russia exchanged two high-profile inmates.
Former US Marine Trevor Reed was released from Russian prison in exchange for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who has been serving a drug sentence in the United States since 2011.
Reed was arrested by Russian police in Moscow in the summer of 2019, when he visited his girlfriend. After a damp night on the town, he was accused of attacking a police officer.
The following year, he was sentenced to nine years in prison. He has all along claimed his innocence and that he does not remember the alleged incident.
In an interview with CNN, the ex-soldier tells about his time in a Russian prison.
– Lost hope
The interview will be broadcast in its entirety on CNN on Sunday night. In a clip published on Friday night, the 30-year-old describes the conditions at a psychiatric institution as the worst since he was imprisoned.
He claims that he shared a cell with seven other inmates – all with serious mental illness – who served sentences for very serious offenses.
– That cell, it was not a good place, says Reed.
– The walls were covered with blood after inmates who had taken their own lives, killed other inmates, or tried to do so. The toilet was just a hole in the floor and there was rubbish everywhere.
The ex-soldier believes he was transferred to the institution as a punishment, because he was constantly working to have the sentence overturned against him. His suspicion has not been confirmed by the Russian team.
US authorities have been working for a long time to get Reed released. The operation has been led by the US Ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, and the President’s Special Envoy for Hostages, Roger Carstens.
The former has described the evidence presented against Reed in court as “ridiculous”.
A source tells CNN that the prisoner exchange came about after his parents met President Joe Biden in person. According to his mother, Paula Reed, the meeting was a turning point.
Even the convicted American did not allow himself to hope that he would ever be released from Russian prison.
– I did not want that hope of being released, and then get it torn away from me, he says.
Concerns about his state of health must also have been a contributing factor to the Americans intensifying their efforts to get him released. The parents claimed in early March that the son had been coughing up blood for several weeks, that he had a fever and pain in his lungs.
– Will not give us
Several other Americans are still imprisoned in Russia, including Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner.
Paul Whelan, who previously served in the U.S. Navy, was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison for espionage. He has claimed his innocence all along. US authorities believe the trial violated international legal standards and demanded his immediate release.
Basketball star Brittney Griner was arrested in February for possession of cannabis oil. US authorities recently concluded that she has been wrongfully arrested. This means that they will work actively to get her released.
It is still unclear how their status is affected by the recent exchange of prisoners between the two great powers.
In a statement in connection with the release of Trevor Reed, President Joe Biden said that the negotiations required difficult decisions that he did not take lightly.
– We will not give up until Paul Whelan and others are back with their loved ones.