DALLAS — After nearly 1,000 days in captivity in Russia, Granbury native Trevor Reed was released from a Moscow jail in exchange for a convicted Russian drug trafficker serving a long prison sentence in America, a senior U.S. official told the Associated Press.
The surprise deal would have been a notable diplomatic maneuver even in times of peace, but it was all the more extraordinary because it was done as Russia's war with Ukraine has driven relations with the U.S. to their lowest point in decades.
Reed, a Marine veteran, was arrested in the summer of 2019 after Russian authorities said he assaulted an officer while being driven by police to a police station following a night of heavy drinking. He was sentenced to nine years in prison, though his family has maintained his innocence and the U.S. government has described him as unjustly detained.
In a statement, the Reed family, his parents Joey and Paula, thanked President Joe Biden “for making the decision to bring Trevor home” as well as other administration officials and Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations whom the family said traveled to Moscow in the hours before the Ukraine war began in hopes of securing Reed's release.
Joey Reed, Trevor Reed's father, told ABC News that his son was flown from Russia to Turkey, where he was exchanged on a tarmac for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence in Connecticut.
Reed then boarded a flight for the U.S. He was still in the air Wednesday morning, flying directly to the U.S.
"He said it was like a movie," Joey Reed said. "They walked past each other like in a spy swap."
Joey Reed told ABC News that doctors were assessing Trevor Reed on the plane.
Granbury residents have told WFAA they’re stunned and relieved to hear the news of Reed’s release.
Representative August Pfluger has kept a picture of Reed outside of his window at his office. When he learned of Reed’s release, the sign was changed to say Reed was free.
Reed’s parents used to show up to Pfluger’s officer often, begging for help, he said.
“To be incarcerated for 985 days, you have to wonder what the conditions were like,” said Pfluger.
Reed’s girlfriend was also shaken when she got the news of Reed’s release today.
“I was crying today for two-three hours while people were calling to me,” said Reed’s girlfriend, Alina Tsybulnik.
WFAA spoke with Reed's family nearly two weeks ago, just after his 970th day of captivity.
Paula Reed, Trevor's mom, expressed concern for her son's health after seeing an image of him appearing in court via video on April 12. While he said in court that he was not coughing up blood and didn't have a fever – both issues he's reportedly been battling in recent months – Paula Reed said her son's condition "looks terrible."
"We're really concerned," she said, "because he looks thin. He just doesn't look like himself."
Though officials on Wednesday did not initially say where the transfer took place, in the hours before it happened commercial flight trackers identified a plane belonging to Russia’s federal security service as flying to Ankara, Turkey. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons also updated its website overnight to reflect that Yaroshenko was no longer in custody.
President Joe Biden released the following statement on Wednesday morning:
"Today, we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family that missed him dearly. Trevor, a former U.S. Marine, is free from Russian detention. I heard in the voices of Trevor’s parents how much they’ve worried about his health and missed his presence. And I was delighted to be able to share with them the good news about Trevor’s freedom.
I’m grateful for the tireless and dedicated work of Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation John Sullivan, and many others across our government to ensure that Trevor came home safely. The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly. His safe return is a testament to the priority my Administration places on bringing home Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad. We won’t stop until Paul Whelan and others join Trevor in the loving arms of family and friends."
Reed was one of several Americans known to be held by Russia, including WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was detained in February after authorities said a search of her bag revealed a cannabis derivative, and Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, who is being held on espionage-related charges his family says are bogus. It was unclear what if any impact Wednesday's action might have on their cases.
United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken released this statement regarding Reed's release and Whelan's continued captivity:
"I am pleased to announce the release of U.S. citizen Trevor Reed, who was wrongfully detained in Russia. We extend our deep appreciation to our many allies and partners who helped us in this effort. I also wish to commend Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Ambassador Carstens, Ambassador John Sullivan, and others in our government who have worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. We welcome this important release, while continuing to call for the release of wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan. We also remain committed to securing the freedom of all U.S. nationals wrongfully detained abroad."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.