Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated on Friday that he’d be willing to talk about a potential ‘prisoner swap’ between two former U.S. Marines, Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan, for Russians being held in the U.S.
Reed, a 29-year-old from Texas, fell into the hands of Russian police after a party in Moscow in the summer of 2019 while visiting his girlfriend. He was initially taken to a police station to sober up but after agents from Russia’s FSB intelligence service arrived to question him, he was abruptly charged with assaulting two police officers, his family said. He was sentenced to nine years in prison last July in a trial that was denounced as absurd by the U.S. embassy in Moscow.
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“In any real court system in the world, there’s no way he would have been convicted,” said his father, Joey Reed. During the court hearings, the two police officers struggled to recall the alleged incident and contradicted themselves so much that at one stage in a session, attended by ABC News, even the judge began to laugh at them. The U.S. has called for Reed to be released, saying his conviction was patently ridiculous.
“This conviction, and a sentence of nine years, for an alleged crime that so obviously did not occur, is ridiculous. I cannot even say ‘miscarriage of justice,’ because clearly ‘justice’ was not even considered. This was theater of the absurd,” Ambassador John J. Sullivan said in a July 2020 statement. After his son’s arrest, Joey Reed took matters into his own hands and spent over a year in Russia trying to free him, staying alone in Moscow through most of the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. officials believe Reed was seized by Russia, similar to Whelan, to use as a possible bargaining chip. Whelan was arrested in December 2018 at his hotel in Moscow while visiting for a friend’s wedding. He was charged with espionage and sentenced to 16 years in a prison camp in a case that his family and U.S. officials was also fabricated.
Russia has repeatedly floated the idea of trading the two Americans for Russians jailed in the U.S. on criminal convictions. Putin spoke about Reed, calling him a “drunken troublemaker” during an interview with NBC on Friday. But he suggested that he was ready to discuss a possible prisoner swap for the men, replying “yes, yes” when asked if he would consider talking about it with Biden. [ABC].
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MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: ABC NEWS