Trevor Reed, Former Prisoner in Russia, is Hurt Fighting in Ukraine

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who was detained in 2019 and accused of assaulting police officers, stands inside a defendants’ cage during a court hearing in Moscow, Russia July 30, 2020.

A U.S. Marine Corps veteran imprisoned in Russia for three years before the Biden administration secured his release through extensive negotiations with Moscow had quietly joined the war effort in Ukraine and recently suffered serious battlefield wounds, the State Department said Tuesday.

“We are aware that Trevor Reed was injured while participating in fighting in Ukraine,” a spokesman for the agency, Vedant Patel, said at a news briefing, emphasizing that Reed was not acting in any official capacity.

Reed was transported to a hospital in Germany, Patel said, adding that the evacuation from Ukraine was performed with the support of a nongovernmental organization. It was not immediately clear where in Germany Reed was taken or who precisely was responsible for getting him out of Ukraine.

Reed was convicted by a Russian court in 2020 after being accused the year before of attacking police officers during a night of drinking. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Efforts to secure his release took on new urgency after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with his family pleading for intervention and citing Reed’s failing health. A deal was reached in April of that year, with the Biden administration agreeing to exchange a former Russian pilot serving time in federal prison for a drug trafficking conviction.

The nature of Reed’s injuries remain unclear. Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for Reed’s family, declined to comment. The Messenger, a news site, reported earlier Tuesday that Reed was hurt after stepping on a land mine.

A senior U.S. defense official familiar with the issue said that, at the Pentagon, some people are angry at Reed and believe he squandered his “hard-fought” release from Russian detention. Others are indifferent, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

“While folks certainly understand the drive to work on the side of right and with the good guys against Russia’s unlawful, murderous, rape-fueled attack against Ukrainians,” this person said, “he should’ve known better and that he would have no way for us to get him out or provide aid this time.”

Patel, the State Department spokesman, declined to say whether the revelation that Reed had taken up arms against Russia risked complicating the administration’s ongoing efforts to secure the release of two other Americans detained by Russia, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and business executive Paul Whelan. As with Reed, the U.S. government considers both to be wrongfully detained.

Reed, who traveled from Texas to Moscow to visit his girlfriend in the summer of 2019, had pleaded not guilty to a charge of using violence to endanger the life or health of a government official performing his duties and later told reporters that his case was “clearly political.” The U.S. ambassador to Russia at that time, John Sullivan, described the evidence used to convict Reed as “so ridiculous that even the judge laughed in court.”

Hundreds of Americans have joined the war effort in Ukraine – to fight and offer support through training and other assistance, such as medical treatment. Many of them, like Reed, served in the U.S. military. At least 16 Americans have died in the conflict as of May.

The State Department reiterated Tuesday its long-standing warning against traveling to Ukraine.

“We have been incredibly clear warning American citizens, American nationals, not to travel to Ukraine, let alone participate in fighting,” Patel said. “As you know, we are not in a place to provide assistance to evacuate private U.S. citizens from Ukraine, including those Americans who may decide to travel to Ukraine to participate in fighting.”