The parents of a former U.S. Marine languishing in a Russian prison are hopeful that President Biden and Vladimir Putin can reach an agreement to secure his freedom after nearly two years in detention.
Both leaders will meet Wednesday at a summit in Geneva in a closely watched geopolitical affair following a steep decline in American-Russian relations. The case of Trevor Reed is expected to come up.
“We’re hoping that they can come to some kind of agreement whether it be an early release for Trevor or a prisoner swap. We really don’t know what the options that are going to be put on the table,” Paula Reed, Trevor’s mother, told Fox News. “We don’t care how it happens. We just want him home.”
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“There’s a lot of Russians here in American prisons that are not here for major crimes,” his father, Joey Reed, said. “Do you realize how many foreign citizens are in Americans prisons and we’re paying literally millions of dollars to house them and keep them instead of just deporting them?”
Reed, 29, a student at the University of North Texas and a Fort Worth native, was in Russia to learn the language and visit his Russian girlfriend when he was detained in August 2019 after a private party in Moscow following a drunken incident.
He was taken to a police station to sober up. Things seemed fine until authorities learned of his military background, his father said. That piqued the attention of Russia’s Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, which then conducted its own interrogation.
Russian authorities eventually accused Reed of grabbing a police officer as he was driving, causing the car to swerve dangerously and elbowing another. Reed and his family deny the charges. He was sentenced last year to nine years in prison.
John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, called Reed’s conviction “ridiculous” and an example of the “theater of the absurd.”
“This conviction, and a sentence of nine years, for an alleged crime that so obviously did not occur, is ridiculous,” Sullivan said in a statement at the time. “I cannot even say ‘miscarriage of justice’ because clearly ‘justice’ was not even considered.”
Trevor Reed was diagnosed with COVID-19 last month. In a June 7 letter to his family, written in Russian as per the conditions of the Russian prison system, he complained of pain in the lungs and weight loss, according to a translation of the letter by Reed’s girlfriend, Lina Tsybulnik, his parents said.
“I’ve got mediocre pain in my lungs. Also, I suffer from [a] cough from time to time,” the letter reads, according to the translation. “We aren’t allowed to have walks.”
Reed’s parents have accused Russian authorities of denying them access to see and communicate with their son and failing to properly treat him. The Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not immediately respond to a Fox News inquiry.
In an interview with NBC News that aired Friday, Putin called Reed a “drunk” and “troublemaker” who “got himself s—faced and started a fight.”
“To us, it’s unbecoming of a world leader to speak like that about … a private citizen but especially about a foreign citizen who we know is innocent,” Joey Reed said.
During the same interview, Putin said he was open to a prisoner swap and said he would be prepared to enter into an extradition agreement with the U.S. in an effort to repatriate other prisoners.
Reed’s parents believe he was jailed possibly because of his military service during the Obama administration. He enlisted in the Marines to serve in the infantry when he was later assigned to the Marine Security Company Camp David. Part of his duties included standing guard at Camp David, and at times, near Obama and then-Vice President Biden.
The couple initially held off on publicly disclosing their son’s military positions over concerns the Russian government was not aware of his service, Joey Reed said.
“It’s become obvious that they knew because it made him a bigger bargaining chip,” he said.
Reed’s family, as well as the loved ones of another former Marine detained in Russia, Paul Whelan, have spoken with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. They said the Biden administrative has been receptive to their concerns.
Whelan was sentenced last year to 16 years in prison on espionage charges. He denies the charges and said he was in Russia to attend the wedding of a friend from his time in the Marines.
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He was arrested in December 2018 and said he was set up by someone he considered a friend who handed him a USB drive allegedly containing vacation photos. Minutes later, Russian authorities stormed his hotel room.
The drive contained a list of names of those working at a classified security agency, Russian authorities said. Whelan claims he is being used as a pawn for a potential prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia.
Russian officials have indicated they would trade Whelan for two Russian prisoners in the U.S. – arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death,” and convicted drug smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko.
Fox News’ Hollie McKay contributed to this report.