US, Russia swap prisoners amid war tension

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The US and Russia have swapped prisoners amid their most tense relations in decades over the war in Ukraine.

On Wednesday, former US marine Trevor Reed was released in exchange for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko.

The swap was not part of broader diplomatic talks and did not represent an American change in approach on Ukraine, US officials said.

Russian-American ties have been at their worst since the Cold War era following Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine and subsequent Western sanctions imposed on Moscow.

Reed, from Texas, was expected to arrive back in the US on Wednesday night (local time), State Department spokesman Ned Price said. Senior US 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 in a statement.

"The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly."

Reed was convicted in Russia in 2019 of endangering the lives of two police officers while drunk on a visit to Moscow. The US called his trial a "theatre of the absurd".

US officials said Biden commuted the sentence of Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot 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 US thanked Turkey, a NATO ally, for its help in the exchange.

Russian news agencies reported Yaroshenko then flew from Ankara to Sochi and finally to Moscow.

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 the "president's action may have saved Trevor's life".

Russian state television video, played on CNN, showed Reed, appearing thin and wearing a dark overcoat, being supported on both sides by men wearing camouflage.

Russia state media described the video as showing Reed at an airport in Russia.

"He looks terrible to us. As his parents, we know he does not look well," Paula Reed said outside their home in Granbury, Texas.

"The American plane pulled up next to the Russian plane, and they walked both prisoners like you see in the movies," Joey Reed said.

"We'd respectfully ask for some privacy while we address the myriad of health issues brought on by the squalid conditions he was subjected to in his Russian gulag," they said.

Biden said his administration will continue to work for the release of Whelan and others. Whelan has been held on spying charges that he denies and that he has likened to a political kidnapping.

US basketball star Brittney Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist, was detained at a Moscow airport on February 17 when a search of her luggage allegedly revealed multiple cannabis oil vape cartridges. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

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