Trevor Reed, an American citizen and former Marine freed last year after two years of imprisonment in Russia, said he’d like to see the Biden administration take “definite action” in freeing an American and Wall Street Journal reporter recently detained by the Kremlin.
“I want to see some definite action,” Reed told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins in an interview that aired Friday on “CNN This Morning.” “[The US government is] going to have to make some type of agreement to get him out.”
“I don’t know if that’s going to involve a prisoner exchange. Obviously there’s a lot of different things that go into those negotiations,” Reed said. “But I think that it’s our government’s duty to do whatever it takes to get innocent Americans out.”
Reed, a former US Marine, was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2020 after being accused of endangering the “life and health” of Russian police officers in an altercation the previous year. Reed and his family denied the charges against him.
Ultimately, Reed was returned to the US as part of a prisoner swap in exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian smuggler convicted of conspiring to import cocaine, after the US commuted his sentence.
On Thursday, Russia’s main security service, the FSB, claimed Evan Gershkovich, a correspondent based in Moscow, was detained after trying to obtain state secrets.
The Wall Street Journal has categorically rejected those allegations, saying in a statement that it “vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter.”
A Russian district court in Moscow said Thursday that Gershkovich would be detained until May 29.
It is the first time an American journalist has been detained on accusations by Moscow of spying since the Cold War, and comes a week after US authorities charged Russian national Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov as an agent of a foreign power, visa fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, and other charges in connection with illegal activities in the US.
Asked by CNN if the State Department would designate Gershkovich as wrongfully detained, State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said that he did not want to get ahead of the process, but that he did not believe there was any truth to the charges against the journalist.
Reed called the Russian judicial system a “joke” and said “the wrongful detention is equivalent to taking a hostage.”
“Obviously, those charges sound extremely fishy, charging a journalist with espionage,” he told Collins. “And I think that also kind of signals the escalation that the Russians are taking by taking a journalist and wrongfully detaining them and basically taking them hostage.”
Reed said he would tell Gershkovich’s family to remain “cautiously optimistic” but that they “need to prepare themselves for a long fight” and need to immediately “get the ball rolling” by contacting media and government representatives “in order to push our government to do something.”
The “enormous amount of effort” made by his family, he told Collins, led to his release.
US basketball star Brittney Griner, detained in February 2022 on what the US described as trumped-up drug smuggling charges, was released in December in a prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
That exchange, however, did not include another American that the State Department has declared wrongfully detained, Paul Whelan. The former Marine is a US, Irish, British and Canadian citizen who was detained at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 by Russian authorities who alleged he was involved in an intelligence operation.