Russia Sends U.S. Marine to Soviet-Era Gulag

Trevor Reed has been imprisoned in Russia for more than one year

U.S. Marine veteran Trevor Reed / Getty Images
July 16, 2021

Russian authorities transferred a U.S. Marine veteran imprisoned in the country for more than a year to a penal colony in a region known for Soviet-era gulags.

Trevor Reed, who served in a Marine security detail tasked with protecting then-president Barack Obama, will likely serve the remainder of a nine-year sentence in a penal colony some 217 miles away from Moscow.

Reed spent last year in multiple prisons. The American embassy and Reed's family say Russia subjected the Marine veteran to brutal conditions, denied him medical treatment, and limited his access to diplomatic services. In March, Russia moved Reed to a maximum-security facility in Moscow without notifying American diplomats, likely violating international treaty law.

A Russian human rights organization said Friday that Reed was transferred from his small cell in Moscow to Mordovia, a region with penal colonies for political prisoners. Reed will join fellow Marine veteran and American citizen Paul Whelan in the region. Whelan, who was arrested on espionage charges in 2018, was moved to a penal colony in August 2020. He has complained of abuse and mistreatment from Russian authorities.

Lawmakers have called for Reed's release for months, with House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (R., Texas) and Reed's congressman, August Pfluger (R., Texas), leading the efforts.  In more than seven months in office, the Biden administration has secured the release of just 1 hostage abroad, while over 50 Americans remain detained.

A resolution pressuring the Biden administration to bring Reed home passed the House in June and awaits a vote in the Senate. President Biden first raised Reed and Whelan's status in his June summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Biden has given no public update since then. In June, Putin called Reed a "drunk" and said he needs more time to consider a prisoner swap.

Reed's transfer comes days after Biden climate envoy John Kerry met with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to advance cooperation on climate change policy. Lavrov, who has defended the Putin regime's human rights violations, has acted as the State Department's primary point of contact for discussing Trevor Reed.

Rep. Don Bacon (R, Neb.), who cochairs the House Baltic Caucus, told the Washington Free Beacon that the president's inaction on Reed's case is just one of several missteps on Russia.

"President Biden now and over the years has talked loudly but carried a small stick in regards to Russia," Bacon said. "Pulling sanctions on the Russian pipeline while shutting down our Keystone Pipeline and American jobs, caving on strategic nuclear talks, and not pushing Putin on dissidents and hostages reflect that. Actions speak louder than words."

The State Department did not return a request for comment.