WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Trevor Reed arrived back in the United States, his spokesperson said on Thursday, after being freed by Russia in a prisoner swap that took place amid the most tense bilateral relations in decades over the war in Ukraine.
On Wednesday, the Texas Marine veteran was released in exchange for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko. He was wheels down in San Antonio before the sun this morning, making for a momentous day for Reed and his family, who waited 985 days for his release.
The swap was not part of broader diplomatic talks and did not represent an American change in approach on Ukraine, U.S. officials said. Russian-American ties have been at their worst since the Cold War era following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine and subsequent Western sanctions imposed on Moscow.
Reed’s spokesperson didn’t immediately confirm where he entered the country.
His parents said earlier he would be taken to a military hospital for monitoring. Senior U.S. officials said the 30-year-old was in “good spirits.”
“Today, we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family that missed him dearly,” President Joe Biden said before Reed’s arrival, noting the parents’ concerns about their son’s health.
“The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly,” Biden added.
Details of how the prisoner swap came to be have not been released. Former governor and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson, who’d been working for months behind the scenes to secure Reed’s release, said the U.S. got the better deal.
“We will stand for our American hostages, not just in Russia but in North Korea and all around the world,” Richardson said.
Reed was convicted in Russia in 2019 of endangering the lives of two police officers while drunk on a visit to Moscow. The United States called his trial a “theater of the absurd.”
U.S. officials said Biden commuted the sentence of Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was arrested by American special forces in Liberia in 2010 and convicted for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the United States. Russia had proposed a prisoner swap for Yaroshenko in July 2019 in exchange for the release of any American.
The swap occurred in Turkey, and the United States thanked Turkey, a NATO ally, for its help in the exchange. Russian news agencies reported that Yaroshenko flew from Ankara to Sochi and Moscow. Rossiya 1, Russia’s main national news channel, showed video of Yaroshenko being embraced by his wife and his daughter, who was jumping up and down with joy, on the tarmac at a Moscow airport.
Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said they were working to free another American held in Russia, Paul Whelan, also a former Marine.
Joey and Paula Reed, the parents of Trevor Reed, thanked Biden and others, saying in a statement that the “president’s action may have saved Trevor’s life.”
His father, Joey, later told reporters that they had two phone calls with their son on Wednesday.
“It didn’t sound like him (in the first call). The second call, he sounded more like himself. He must’ve gotten some fluids and food in him. He was cracking jokes,” Joey Reed said.
“It’s a perfect Mother’s Day. Better, well not better, but almost as good as the day he was born,” Paula Reed said.
Rep. August Pfluger, (R-Texas), one of Reed’s most vocal advocates during his lockup, said it’s a big day not only for the family, but also for the country.
“It was really just an incredible moment to understand how special this country is to Trevor Reed…a Marine, a Patriot, somebody who needed to come home,” Pfluger said. “It’s a huge day in America to have this happen.”
Still, it will likely be a long road to recovery for Reed. His parents talked about a lack of nutrition and healthcare he received behind bars.
Amy Manson, the founder and secretary of Hostage US., which works with detainees and their families during and after captivity, said for people who’ve been detained, there is no “return to normal.”
“It’s ‘return to your new life,'” she said. “They are looking at key physical issues, broken limbs that didn’t heal properly… or a lot of times, skin lesions, deficiencies of A,D,E,C that cause small and large problems, definitely poor nutrition.”
Manson pointed out that Reed was imprisoned before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world— one of many new developments he will now have to get used to.
“Sometimes there’s a period of one to 6 months where they are so into being back being present in their life then they hit a brick wall,” she said.
Reuters contributed to this report.