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In Height of Russia-Ukraine War, Biden Swaps Prisoner with Moscow

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Joe Biden

Although Russia and the United States are not coming to many agreements, a prisoner exchange has been coordinated.  “Russia has exchanged jailed American Trevor Reed for a Russian pilot held in a U.S. prison in a rare example of cooperation between the two countries amid the confrontation over Moscow’s war in Ukraine” reports Bloomberg.

30-year-old Reed is a former U.S. Marine was serving nine years in prison after being convicted in 2020 of assaulting two police officers. Reed was swapped for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot jailed in 2011 for 20 years for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. after he was seized in a sting operation in Liberia.

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke early Wednesday with Reed’s parents, who expressed their relief and joy, and the former Marine was able to call his family from a government plane en route to the U.S., according to a person familiar with the discussions. Biden had earlier commuted Yaroshenko’s sentence as part of the exchange, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters Wednesday.

“The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly,” Biden said in a statement. Biden had raised the cases of Reed and another jailed American, Paul Whelan, at his summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva last year, telling reporters later that “I’m not going to walk away” from them.

Reed was detained in 2019 and had charges against him denied. He the went on hunger strike to protest conditions in jail last year, his family said. The U.S. insists Reed was unfairly convicted, unlike Yaroshenko.

Bloomberg reports:

Russian TV footage showed Reed walking unsteadily as armed Russian police officers bundled him onto a plane at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport.

Reed’s deteriorating health added urgency to efforts to secure his release, a senior Biden administration official said. Whelan remains in Russian custody.

Reed’s family thanked Biden for “the decision to bring Trevor home.” In a statement released through a spokesperson, they said: “The president’s action may have saved Trevor’s life.”

The exchange took place in Turkey. “Reed and Yaroshenko arrived at almost exactly the same time in Turkey. Teams on the ground on both sides confirmed the identities of the person the other country was offering, then Yaroshenko and Reed were walked across the tarmac to the other plane.”

The negotiations over Reed and Yaroshenko were strictly limited to the prisoner exchange and “not part of a broader discussion with the Russian Federation,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in an interview with MSNBC.

“We didn’t seek that. We aren’t seeking that,” Price said.

Bloomberg adds that U.S. officials are hopeful Reed’s release could open the door for other Americans detained or having legal issues in Russia such as WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner, who has been detained for allegedly possessing vape cartridges containing hash oil.

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International

VIDEO: Russia Moving Missiles Towards Finland Border

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Screen Shot 2022 05 16 at 11.47.56 AM

Putin has said in recent years that Finland is considered friendly so long as they do not join NATO. Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö confirmed Sunday he has applied for NATO membership.

MetroUK tweeted chilling video and reported the following:

Russia has started moving nuclear-capable missiles towards its border with Finland hours after Moscow vowed not to tolerate Helsinki’s plans to join Nato.

The Kremlin issued a chilling warning that plans for both Finland and Sweden to sign up to the Atlantic alliance were a ‘grave mistake with far reaching consequences’.

Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said: ‘They should have no illusions that we will simply put up with it,’ and insisted ‘the general level of military tension will rise’.

The video was reportedly taken on a road leading to Vyborg, around 24 miles from the Finnish border, showing the deployment of mobile Iskander missiles.

“Seven launchers are thought to be en route according to commentary on a dash cam video broadcast by Russian media.”

A person on the video can be heard saying: ‘As soon as the president of Finland said they were joining Nato, a whole division of Iskanders, seven of them is moving towards Vyborg.

‘Looks like a new military unit is about to be formed in Vyborg or the region.’

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