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Parents of American jailed in Russia say they are open to prisoner swap

The parents of Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine who was sentenced last year to nine years in a Russian prison, say they hope the upcoming summit between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will lead to a prisoner swap.

“We don’t care how he comes home, if they want to exchange Trevor for some criminals that you know are low-level criminals or whatever,” Trevor’s father Joey said on NBC’s “TODAY” show on Monday.

“We’re fine with that, we want our son home,” Trevor’s mother Paula interjected.

“Hey, American prisons then don’t have to pay for their housing,” Joey Reed said. “Send them home.”

Reed was diagnosed with Covid-19 last month, and his family is struggling to get updates about his condition.

Meanwhile, the brother of Paul Whelan, another former Marine who was also detained in Russia and sentenced to 16 years in prison last year, has mixed feelings about the idea of a prisoner exchange between the two countries.

“He is innocent, he was wrongly accused. We would rather see the door come open and him come out rather than some sort of negotiated release of Russian convicts,” Whelan’s brother said.

Whelan was accused of being a spy and arrested at the end of 2018. His brother said he was in Russia to attend a wedding.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the unlawful detentions of Whelan and Reed need to end and that prisoner swaps would be on the table when Biden and Putin meet.

Putin said in an NBC News interview on Friday ahead of the summit with Biden that he’s open to a prisoner swap. He said the number of Russian prisoners in the U.S. “don’t even compare” with the number of American prisoners in Russia.

Asked about the imprisoned men, Putin said Reed was a “troublemaker” and “drunk” who “got himself s**t-faced and started a fight.” Reed is serving a nine-year sentence for hitting a Russian police officer in 2019, a charge the U.S. ambassador to Russia has called “flimsy.” Reed and his family deny the charges.

Joey Reed said the “false statements about our son are surprising.”

“Why didn’t you prove it?” Reed asked. “The kangaroo court they held — anyone could see that this was a sham and a fake and that my son was innocent.”

Paula Reed called Putin’s words “offensive and untrue.”

“Witnesses and video evidence were ignored by the judge, and he was given the longest sentence in modern Russian history for the crime,” Reed said. But “we’re very happy to hear that President Putin is open to a prisoner exchange, and we hope that that’s something that happens very soon because Trevor and Paul Whelan both have been there long enough considering that they’re innocent of the charges against them.”

Joey Reed said the couple is hopeful because the Biden administration has been “very outspoken about our son, which was a change.”

“Of all the major issues between our countries, this prisoner exchange is probably the easiest,” Joey Reed said. “If they can accomplish anything in this summit, it would be this exchange.”

Corky Siemaszko contributed.

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