National Security

Former U.S. Marine Sentenced to Nine Years in Russian Prison

A Russian Tupolev Tu-160 supersonic strategic bomber and Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bombers fly above the Kremlin
A Russian Tupolev Tu-160 supersonic strategic bomber and Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bombers fly above the Kremlin / Getty Images

Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed was sentenced by a Moscow court to serve nine years in prison on Thursday, the New York Times reported.

Already imprisoned for 11 months, Reed was sentenced on charges of assaulting and endangering the lives of two Russian police officers. Reed, his supporters, and his family denied the charges, describing them as politically motivated.

"I think anyone who has eyes and ears and who has been in this courtroom knows that I’m not guilty," Reed said. "They didn't ask me anything about fighting police, they asked me where I served in the Marine Corps, what deployments I was on…. Everything about this case is political."

Reed and his associates asserted that the forensic evidence against him does not meet rigorous standards. Reed’s team also alleges regular mistreatment by Russian authorities. The American appears to have endured treacherous conditions, having been denied a translator for two months, family visitation for seven months, and constant rejection of appeals for medical treatment.

The Russo-American relationship has grown hotly contested as Russian president Vladimir Putin consolidates political power. After pushing for a constitutional amendment allowing him to hold the Russian presidency until 2036, Putin increasingly faces pushback from his own people. The country saw unprecedented levels of protesting this week after the arrest of a governor in the opposition party.

U.S. ambassador to Russia John J. Sullivan called the sentence and its preceding process "theater of the absurd." He added, "As the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, I will continue to advocate on Trevor’s behalf. His safety and welfare—and that of all U.S. citizens in Russia—is my highest priority."

Moscow sentenced another former Marine, Paul Whelan, to 16 years in prison on spying charges last month.

"This pattern of Russian repression at home, aggression against its neighbors, attacks on democratic institutions against our allies and here in the United States, and adventurism in the Middle East, Africa, and South America, all spring from this relative weakness and insecurity," a July 22 U.S. State Department report reads.