CNN Exclusive. Trevor Reed, who was sentenced in Russia to nine years in prison, speaks for the first time about his arrest, imprisonment and return, which occurred in a prisoner exchange with a convicted Russian smuggler.
In his first TV interview since returning to the United States after being imprisoned in Russia, Trevor Reid shared the background and horrific circumstances of his arrest, as well as the prisoner exchange that ended a nearly three-year ordeal for him and your family. .
Red told Jake Tapper, for a CNN special—”The Last House: The Trevor Reed Interview”—which aired Sunday night, that he’s been feeling a little better with each passing day, since returning home less than a month ago.
He said, “In the past few days, things have been a lot more real to me. But there comes a time when you just don’t accept that. And you come back. You can’t understand that you’re really free,” he said.
Reed, a US citizen and former Navy captain, was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2020 after being accused of endangering the “life and health” of Russian police officers in the previous year’s fighting. He and his family denied the allegations.
As part of a prisoner exchange with the United States for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian smuggler convicted of conspiring to import cocaine, Reid was released from Russia in late April. The United States commuted Yaroshenko’s sentence.
During the summer of 2019, Reed traveled to Moscow to spend with his lawyer girlfriend Lina Cibulnik. After the couple attended a party one night that included a lot of alcohol, Reed lost consciousness and fell ill on the side of the road, before police arrived at the scene and took him to the entrance to the precinct, he told CNN.
Red says he slept in the hall expecting to leave in the morning. But when he was waiting for a ride to his girlfriend’s house, there was a shift of the shift at the station.
Reid recalls: “New officers came with a new chief of police. He saw I was speaking English to the person in charge there… and after about three minutes they came back and told me I couldn’t leave. Ask me why. But they didn’t answer me.” According to Reid, officers from the FSB, the successor organization to the KGB, arrived about ten minutes later.
When Cibulnik arrived at the station, according to Reed, police officers claimed that he had been arrested for assaulting police officers inside the station. But when Cibulnik requested the camera footage, the police stopped talking to them. Police later changed their story to say that Reade assaulted officers in a police car on their way to the precinct, he said.
Reid recalls, “Lena was following the police car to the precinct. And she said, ‘You know, that obviously didn’t happen.'” “The defensive team ended up receiving a video of the way this was supposed to happen, and they were able to prove that none of this happened.”
Read also believes that he was beaten by the police when he lost consciousness at the station.
Reed’s life in a Russian prison
During his time as a prisoner in Russia, Reed always refused to admit any guilt. He refused to participate in work while in the labor camp, which led to his solitary confinement. He participated in a hunger strike to protest the workers’ camp and access to medical care.
Prison time caused material losses. Reed says he lost 45 pounds and coughed up blood for several months, fearing he might have Covid-19 or tuberculosis.
When asked if he was on the verge of a breakup, Reed answered Tapper: “No. And to be honest—the longer I stayed, the more dedicated I was to not letting them break me.”
“I may be dying. But psychologically, they will never break me,” he added.
Read also told Tapper that he believed he was sent to a psychiatric center as punishment for his ongoing efforts to appeal his conviction. He describes the installation: “There was blood on the walls – prisoners killed themselves, or killed other prisoners, or attempted to.”
“The bathroom is just a hole in the floor. And there’s, you know, crap everywhere, on the floor, on the walls. There are people walking in there who look like zombies,” he continues. Red says he hasn’t slept in days for fear of what people might do to him in his cell.
Inside the prison, Red denied himself any hope of getting out.
“A lot of people won’t like what I’m going to say, but I almost saw their hope as a weakness,” he admits. “So I didn’t want to have that hope of, like, being released somehow and then taken away from me.”
“I will not allow myself to be hopeful.”
As Russia’s war with Ukraine began earlier this year, Reed’s desperation deepened. In the interview with Tapper, he remembered thinking, “Well, now there’s no way out of here.”
But with the outbreak of the war, Reed was transferred from a hospital to the FSB prison in Moscow. There, a US State Department official told him he was likely to be released. However, Reid remained skeptical. Officials inside and outside the United States government have been working behind the scenes for years to secure Reid’s release.
One morning in the FSB prison, Reed was taken into an FSB truck and put on a plane bound for Turkey. When the plane was on the runway in Turkey, Reed said, “I had no idea what was going on.”
The Russian FSB officers on the plane told Red how the exchange would work: “We have a man there in America. An American plane will fly here. You will land next to us. You will get off the plane. He will get off the plane. “The plane, the other on the runway as you board your plane.”
“I was like, ‘No,’” Reid says with a laugh. “Like, this guy must be kidding me.” At that time, Roger Carstens, the US special envoy for hostage affairs, boarded the plane to identify him. He and Yaroshenko then crossed the track.
After leaving Turkey, Reed says he had a steak on board and called his mom and dad.
A government official previously told CNN that this exchange last month was the culmination of “months and months of painstaking, painstaking work across the US government” that took place against the backdrop of escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow – which were greatly exacerbated by Russia. A brutal war against Ukraine.
It was the combination of factors surrounding Reade’s case — including his deteriorating health in prison, his family’s ongoing activity that led to a meeting with the president of the United States, and the situation in Ukraine — that prompted Biden to allow the swap for Yaroshenko, a source told CNN last month.
The family gives credibility to politicians and the press, and advocates for prisoner exchange
Al Reed says they owe it to lawmakers on both sides to help make the change happen, including Texas Republican Representative August Pfluger and the Biden administration.
“It’s not political,” Trevor’s father, Joey Reed, told Tapper. “When they got Trevor, they didn’t get a Republican or a Democrat. They got an American and a Veteran. We need to start looking at these cases as an attack on America. And we’re going to bring them home. We can force them, we have to negotiate or do whatever it is.” necessary to bring our Americans home.”
Trevor Reed also thanked the press for its coverage of his arrest, and credited reporters with helping them secure his return to the United States. During most of Reed’s detention, his parents frequently appeared in front of the press to demand the return of their son. Reed said his release last month “would never have happened” had it not been for the US press and public information about his arrest.
He continued, “In the United States, the media has played a major role in all of this. So I’d like to thank CNN, ABC and Fox News – everyone who covered – for doing that.” “And I mean, keep up the good work and keep doing it with the other hostages…This is something that, unfortunately, our government needs to work on.”
But the Reed family also said that some lawmakers denied their requests because the family was not from congressional district. Joy Reed said the family “hasn’t heard from the Marine Corps” or any group of Marines in response to their son’s arrest. “We are very disappointed in the Marine Corps,” said Joey Reed. “There are millions of ex-Marines. Think of the voting power you’ll have. Think of the vote you’ll have. Can’t you use any of that for the benefit of other Marines?” “Trevor Reed has served his country honorably as a Marine and we thank him for his service. He and his family have been the best thing together,” Marine Corps spokesman Major Jim Stinger told CNN.
Trevor Reid also stressed that he does not believe that the United States’ participation in a prisoner exchange to return Americans should be controversial.
While some critics say US involvement in exchanges may encourage foreign governments to hold Americans hostage or prisoners on false charges as leverage in negotiations, Reed said these countries “will continue to do so as long as US citizens travel there.”
“What you have to understand is that countries like North Korea — now Russia, obviously, China, Syria, Iran, Venezuela — countries like this are going to take American hostages, no matter what,” Reid said. “Even if they didn’t get some kind of exchange for these prisoners, they would anyway out of sheer evil, just to show the United States that we got your citizens.”
Reed also said that what distinguishes the United States from other countries is its willingness to bring Americans home when they are taken hostage or unjustly imprisoned abroad.
“(The United States) made the moral decision to exchange prisoners to get innocent Americans out of that country, even as it replaced them with someone more important and valuable in the United States,” Reid said. The Russians, China, Venezuelans, Iran, Syria, North Korea—none of them did or would ever exchange a prisoner who is just one of their ordinary citizens. United State.”
Meanwhile, two Americans, Paul Whelan and Britney Greiner, are still being held in Russia.
A senior administration official told CNN last month that he does not necessarily see Reid’s successful return home translate into a strengthening of the Whelan and Greiner cases, but that the US government will continue to press for his release and that potential channel exchanges will. remain open.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with Greiner’s wife, Cheryl Greiner, last week. According to a senior State Department official, the senior US diplomat conveyed that the release of Greiner is a priority for the department and receives his full attention.
For Reid, it appears that defending other Americans stranded abroad is now a new task. “We need to do everything we can as Americans to defend Americans illegally held abroad, and do everything we can to get them out,” Reid told CNN. “When I was told I was going out, I thought Paul (Whelan) was going out with me. And when I found out they left him here, it was hard.”
Reid said that while realizing there was nothing he could do to get Whelan with him, “the truth is the United States should have gotten him out of there, and we should have gotten him out at all costs.”