BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled Monday he may be willing to do a prisoner swap for two former US Marines serving prison sentences in Russia, including one man who spent much of his childhood in the Kern County mountain community of Tehachapi.
During an interview with NBC’s Keir Simmons, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke publicly about Reed and fellow US prisoner Paul Whelan. Airing just two days before Putin meets with Pres. Joe Biden, the interview touched on whether Putin may be approve a prisoner release that would result in the two Americans returning home.
When asked about whether he would support a prisoner swap, Putin said “Yes. Yes. Yes, of course.” However, earlier in the interview he stated Russia has “certain U.S. citizens who are in prison, have been convicted, [and] found guilty. But if one considers the number of Russian Federation citizens who are in U.S. prisons, then these numbers don’t even compare.”
A former Marine, Reed spent much of his childhood in Tehachapi. Now, he is serving nine years in a Russian prison after the Russian government convicted him of assaulting a police officer during a night of heavy drinking in Moscow. US officials, including Congressman Kevin McCarthy, say Reed was arrested under false pretenses.
The US Embassy in Moscow last week said it has not been able to communicate with Reed over the last several weeks, noting he tested positive for COVID-19 on May 25th. In a statement, an embassy representative stated, in part, that Reed has “been repeatedly denied phone calls to his family or embassy personnel. He has received none of the letters his family has sent. We are gravely concerned about his health.”
On the Today Show, Reed’s parents Joey and Paula said they hope the two nations can reach an agreement to bring their son and Whelan home.
“We’re very happy to hear Pres. Putin is open to a prisoner exchange,” said Paula Reed. “And we hope that’s something that happens very soon considering Trevor and Paul Whelan have been there long enough for the charges against them.
“We don’t care how he comes home. If they want to exchange him for some criminals, we’re fine with that,” Joey Reed continued.
“We want our son home,” Paula added.
Reed’s parents made very clear that their son and Mr. Wheelan are innocent. Biden is set to meet with Putin in Geneva on Wednesday, and Reed and Whelan are expected to be brought up during the conversation.