Trevor Reed, the Marine veteran who was freed from Russian custody in a prisoner swap last year, said that the Biden administration should take “definite action” to bring home a detained Wall Street Journal reporter.
Speaking to “CNN This Morning” Friday, Reed suggested that the government would likely have to come a “some type of an agreement” to secure Evan Gershkovich’s release.
“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.”
Gershkovich, 31, was arrested this week in the city of Yekaterinburg on espionage charges, accused by Russia’s security service of gathering classified information about a military factory.
The US citizen pleaded not guilty in Moscow Thursday and was ordered jailed until May 29.
The White House strongly condemned Gershkovich’s “unacceptable” detention, with Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dismissing the spying charges against him as “ridiculous” in Thursday’s briefing.
Reed echoed Jean-Pierre’s words, saying that Gershkovich’s detention on “fishy” charges was “wrongful” and akin to hostage taking.
Reed himself was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison in July 2020 after being convicted of endangering the life and health of local cops in an altercation — a claim he denied.
After spending more than two years behind bars, Reed was released in exchange for a Russian drug trafficker who had been imprisoned in the US.
Asked to weigh in on what Gershkovich might be going through in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo jail now, Reed related to his own experience, saying that he spent his first hours in a state of “confusion,” “shock” and “denial,” likening the ordeal to a nightmare from which he could not wake up.
Reed also did not mince words when discussing Russia’s judicial system, which he slammed as a “joke.”
“[Russian officials] violate their own rules, regulations, laws there, and there’s no type of accountability for Russian officials who break those laws,” he said. “They can basically do anything that they want.”
Some members of Congress have accused Russia of taking Gershkovich hostage on trumped up charges as part of a scheme to exert pressure on the US, or possibly set the stage for a future prisoner swap.
And Reed agreed with that assessment, claiming that Russian authorities targeted the American reporter to “gain leverage,” or to make an example out of him.
“I think that this is the perfect example that our relationship hit an all-time low,” he said. “Taking a journalist, that kind of puts into perspective…how desperate the Russians have become.”
“I think the next step after taking our journalists hostage there is basically diplomats.”
He added that Gershkoivch’s plight captures the degree to which Russia has stopped caring about its image in the world.
Asked what advice he would give the Wall Street Journal reporter’s loved ones, Reed urged them to “prepare themselves for a long fight,” but also to be “cautiously optimistic.”
The retired Marine credited his family with putting pressure on the Biden administration to secure his release.
Shortly after he returned to the US, Reed spoke critically of the government for failing to bring home another former Marine, Paul Whelan, who has been languishing in a Russian prison for more than three years on an espionage conviction.
“The United States got me out but they left him there. I can’t describe to you how painful that feeling is,” Reed told “Good Morning America” last May.