Trevor Reed on how a drunken night turned into 985 days in a medieval Russian prison

Trevor Reed, the US Marine-turned-Russian prisoner, said he decided to give up hope while being held in solitary confinement in a psychiatric ward spattered with the blood of inmates who had killed themselves — or who had been killed by others.

Reed – who was sentenced to nine years in hard labor for unspecified crimes, which allegedly took place after a night he drank Russian vodka with his girlfriend – said he was placed in isolation and psychiatric care after he refused at what he called a “medieval labor camp.

Hope, he said in interviews with CNN and ABC’s Jake Tapper Good morning America, might prove too disappointing. “And a lot of people aren’t going to like what I’m going to say about that, but I see it as a weakness that they have hope,” he told Tapper in an interview that aired Sunday night. “So I didn’t want to have any hope that somehow I’d be released and then that would be taken from me.”

Reed described the macabre facilities — no doubt not that different from those in which Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan are being held — for both networks. “The toilet is just a hole in the ground. And there’s crap everywhere, all over the floor, on the walls. There are also people walking around in there who look like zombies,” he told CNN.

Reed’s arrest is now well known thanks to his vigilant parents and devoted Russian girlfriend Alina Tsybulnik, who was with him the night of his arrest in 2019. The two had been to a party where Reed admits to getting drunk on vodka Tsybulnik called the police after jumping out of the car and refusing to get back in. The police took him to the police station, followed by his girlfriend, where he overslept from alcohol.

But before Tsybulnik arrived to pick him up the next morning, Federal Security Service (or FSB) officers questioned him about his military service. He was later charged and convicted of assaulting the officers who brought him to the station to sober up. Reed told ABC News that they later told him they were forced to lie about the attack. “I asked one of these officers, you know, I said, ‘Why are you guys doing this? Why did you write that bogus, you know, accusation against me?”” Reed told ABC. “And he looked around the door to make sure nobody was there, and he looked at the other cop and he said, ‘We didn’t want to write that. They told us to write that.’”

The absurd trial that followed was closely followed in the United States. It was a year after Whalen was arrested and convicted while attending a wedding in Moscow. “I knew pretty much where this case was going as soon as I saw FSB agents,” Reed told ABC. When he refused to work at the camp, he said he gained respect from other prisoners who were afraid to refuse. But he was also severely punished, sometimes spending 23 hours in isolation snuggled against a heat pipe to keep warm. He lost 40 pounds and started coughing up blood, which he feared was COVID or tuberculosis. But when he was taken to the blood-spattered psychiatric hospital, he feared they might hurt him. “I thought maybe they sent me there to be chemically disabled, give me sedatives or whatever, and incapacitate me,” Reed told ABC.

When the war in Ukraine began, which Reed had somehow heard about despite an alleged total media blackout in the country, he said he was certain he would never leave prison. But after Reed’s parents met President Joe Biden, a prisoner swap deal was struck with the Kremlin to release Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was serving 20 years in prison for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the US

On April 27, Reed was put on a plane that was so run down he feared it would crash. As he landed on the tarmac in Turkey, he saw Yaroshenko boarding the plane he had just exited. Then he took the Russian’s place on the American plane and was finally free.

But he told both stations he felt guilty for leaving the other American prisoners behind. “I had a really, really bad feeling of guilt that I was free and that Paul Whelan was still in prison. When I found out it was an exchange I figured they probably exchanged Paul Whelan too. And I expected that he would come home with me. And he — he didn’t do it,” a tearful Reed told ABC. “I thought that was wrong that they pulled me out and not Paul.” Trevor Reed on how a drunken night turned into 985 days in a medieval Russian prison


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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