Biden vows to proceed pressuring Russia to launch American prisoners

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, arrested and charged with espionage, holds a sign as he speaks during his judgment hearing in Moscow, Russia, Dec.

Maxim Shemetov | Reuters

President Joe Biden said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the fate of US citizens detained in Russia at the summit of leaders in Geneva on Wednesday.

“To the families of the Americans in custody, we have talked about it and we will continue this discussion. I will not leave this out,” Biden said at the end of a press conference.

During his post-meeting press conference, Putin did not provide details on a possible prisoner exchange but said discussions would continue.

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken had said that potential prisoner swaps were on the table for the discussion between Putin and Biden. Blinken and other senior officials joined Biden in meetings with their Russian counterparts.

In May, Blinken urged Moscow to release former US Marines Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, who were sentenced to 16 and 9 years in prison, respectively, according to a conversation between the State Department and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Reed was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison last year after attacking a police officer during one night in Moscow. Whelan was arrested in 2018 on charges of acting as a spy for the United States. At the time of his arrest, Whelan was visiting Russia to attend a wedding, according to his brother David Whelan.

Both Whelan and Reed deny the charges against her.

Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, arrested in 2019 and charged with assaulting police officers, stands in a cage of the defendants during a trial in Moscow, Russia, March 11, 2020.

Tatiana Makejewa | Reuters

The US Ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, called the evidence against Reed “weak”.

“If this case had been brought to a US court, not only would it have been dismissed, but prosecutors would be investigated for bringing it up,” Sullivan told NBC News.

In the days leading up to the summit, Reed’s parents publicly appealed to Biden to obtain their son’s release.

They also said that they would have no objection to an exchange of prisoners between Moscow and Washington if it meant the return of their son. “We don’t care how he gets home if they want to trade Trevor for some criminals who, you know, are low-level criminals or whatever,” Trevor’s father Joey Reed said Monday on the NBC show. ” TODAY ”.

“We agree. We want our son at home,” said Trevor’s mother Paula Reed.

However, David Whelan has raised concerns about the idea of ​​a prisoner exchange.

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“He’s innocent, he was wrongly accused. We’d rather see the door open and he come out than a kind of negotiation release for Russian convicts,” Whelan told TODAY on Monday.

Putin, who first addressed the press after the bilateral meeting, said talks with Biden had been “very productive” and there had been “no hostilities” between the two.

In a separate press conference, Biden described the talks as “good, positive” and reiterated his hope that the two heads of state and government could work together on common interests.

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