A dramatic video has emerged that captures the moment the United States swapped a Russian drug dealer for jailed ex-Marine Trevor Reed in Istanbul, Turkey. Reed was exchanged for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian jailed on drug-smuggling charges, in what has been compared to the famous Cold War prisoner swap on the so-called Bridge of Spies.
The short video was filmed at a Turkish airport on Wednesday and shows Russian pilot Yaroshenko disembarking from an American private jet with pixelated security men. Reed was sentenced to nine years in jail in July 2020 for allegedly harming the "life and health" of Russian police officers during an incident.
Reed's release brings an end to an almost three-year nightmare. The video taken at Istanbul airport shows the two prisoners walking past along with security personnel as they stop before being swapped.
The video shows Yaroshenko walking toward Russian officials who were waiting nearby with Reed, who was jailed in 2019 for an alleged attack on a Moscow cop. However, Reed and his family have denied the allegations.
In the video, Reed can be seen exiting the plane with Russian authorities and walking to the runway's center, where American officials are waiting. He then starts walking with an agent carrying two bags, whereas Yaroshenko appears to be carrying only a single bag and a manila envelope.
While the Russian and American operatives exchange a few words, the agent with the baggage is seen leading Reed directly to the American plane, while Yaroshenko waits.
The Americans and Russians then shake hands before being escorted to their plane by the US agents.
"Real bridge of spies Cold War vibes," tweeted Max Seddon, a Financial Times reported, who was one of the firsts to share the video on social media.
The film Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance, released in 2015 and chronicles the story of US officials attempting to release Francis Gary Powers, a spy plane pilot shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960.
On the Glienecke Bridge, which connects Potsdam and Berlin in Germany, he was successfully exchanged for KGB agent Rudolf Abel.
End of Ordeal for Reed
Reed's swapping with Yaroshenko comes amid rising tensions between Russia and the west owing to Putin's decision to invade Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainian civilians and Russian and Ukrainian forces have lost their lives in the war which is already into its third month.
However, the exchange will not impact the US approach to the war in Ukraine, senior administration officials said.
Reed is currently on his way back to the United States, where he will be hospitalized for several days. In a phone call with Reed's parents, President Joe Biden said he was "delighted" to deliver the news of his return.
"The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly," he said.
Joey and Paula Reed claim that their son was mistreated in prison and appeared to have contracted tuberculosis. Last month, the couple staged a demonstration outside the White House, eventually winning a meeting with the president.
Questions have been raised about Reed's health in recent times as well. Reed appeared to be much thinner in the video than he was in images taken before his detention, and family members say he recently embarked on a hunger strike to protest being held in solitary confinement.
Reed, from North Texas, was detained in Russia in the summer of 2019 when Russian authorities said he assaulted a police officer while being brought to a police station after a night of heavy drinking.
He was ultimately sentenced to nine years in prison, despite his family's protests of innocence and the US government's claim that he was wrongfully detained. After being detained in Liberia in 2010 and extradited to the United States, Reed was ultimately released on Wednesday as part of a prisoner exchange in which US officials agreed to return Yaroshenko, a pilot spending time in a Connecticut jail for conspiracy to bring cocaine into the United States.