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Russia and the US surprisingly exchange prisoners

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Russia and the US conducted an unexpected prisoner swap at a time of high tension, trading a Moscow-imprisoned Navy veteran for a convicted Russian drug trafficker who is serving a lengthy sentence in America.

The deal announced by both countries with Trevor Reed, an American imprisoned for almost three years, would have been a remarkable diplomatic maneuver even in peacetime. It was all the more surprising given that it was part of Russia’s war Ukraine pushed relations with the US to their lowest point in decades.

The US returned Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was serving a 20-year federal prison sentence in Connecticut after his 2010 arrest in Liberia on conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US.

The US Department of Justice has described him as “a seasoned international drug trafficker” who conspired to distribute thousands of pounds of cocaine around the world.

Reed, a 30-year-old former Marine from Texas, was arrested in the summer of 2019 after Russian authorities said he assaulted an officer as he was being driven by police to a police station after a night of drinking. He was later sentenced to nine years in prison.

For years, Russia had sought Yaroshenko’s return while refusing requests from senior US officials to release Reed, who was attending his 1,000th birthday. Day of detention was approaching and his family said his health had deteriorated recently.

The U.S. government does not typically welcome such exchanges for fear that it might encourage foreign governments to take more Americans as prisoners in order to extort concessions and a possible false equating — which U.S. officials believe — of a wrongly imprisoned American that Reed was there – and to avoid a properly convicted criminal.

In this case, however, the US decided the deal made sense in part because Yaroshenko had already served a long chunk of his sentence, which has now been commuted.

Reed’s release had no immediate impact on the cases of other Americans being held by Russia.

Griner, for example, was arrested in February after Russian authorities said a search of her bag turned up a cannabis derivative.

Whelan – a Canadian-born American with British and Irish citizenship – is being held on espionage charges which his family says are false.

US officials have described Whelan as wrongly imprisoned, and yesterday Biden said: “We will not stop until Paul Whelan and others join Trevor in the loving arms of family and friends.”

The exchange took place in Turkey, according to Reed’s father, Joey.

“The American plane pulled up next to the Russian plane and they walked both prisoners over at the same time like you see in the movies,” he said.

The swap seems unlikely to herald a major breakthrough between Washington and Moscow. A senior Biden administration official warned that the negotiations focused on a “discrete set of prisoner issues” and did not represent a change in the US government’s condemnation of Russian violence against Ukraine.

“Where we can have discussions on issues of common interest, we will try to speak to Russians and have a constructive conversation without changing our approach to the appalling violence in Ukraine,” the official said.

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/russia-and-us-swap-prisoners-in-surprise-exchange-41595060.html Russia and the US surprisingly exchange prisoners

Fry Electronics Team

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