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Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, charged with attacking police, adjusts his face mask while standing inside a defendants’ cage during his verdict hearing at Moscow’s Golovinsky district court on July 30, 2020.
Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, charged with attacking police, adjusts his face mask while standing inside a defendants’ cage during his verdict hearing at Moscow’s Golovinsky district court on July 30, 2020. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)

WASHINGTON — Five days before the Biden-Putin summit, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow sounded an alarm Friday about the condition of Trevor Reed, the former Marine imprisoned on charges that the U.S. considers a pretext for holding him as a bargaining chip.

Reed, 29, was diagnosed with COVID-19 on May 25 and in the 16 days since has been barred from communicating with his parents in North Texas or U.S. diplomats.

“We are gravely concerned about his health,” the embassy said in a statement, adding that the facility where Reed has been hospitalized has refused to provide updates on his health. “We insist that this brazen attempt to isolate Mr. Reed from both his family and his government immediately cease.”

Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin will hold their first face-to-face meeting Wednesday in Geneva. The agenda is packed with sources of recent tension, including Russia-based cyberattacks on a critical U.S. fuel pipeline, last year’s SolarWinds cyberattack that affected government agencies and most of the Fortune 500, and military threats to Ukraine.

U.S. officials under both the Trump and Biden administrations have pressed for the release of Reed and another former Marine, Paul Whelan. Lawmakers in both parties have demanded the men’s release, and their detention is among the friction points overshadowing the summit.

“Several Americans remain unjustly detained in Russia, including Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday. “The Kremlin’s Kafkaesque treatment of American citizens must stop, and President Biden should make their return a priority of the visit.”

“Cutting off the embassy’s communication with Trevor, especially as he is now battling COVID after being refused a vaccine, is completely unacceptable,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said Friday. “The Putin regime needs to release Trevor and send him home to his family immediately.”

According to the State Department, during a May 19 meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Iceland, Secretary of State Antony Blinken “made clear that Russia should release American citizens Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed so they can return home to their families.”

Reed is a Fort Worth native and was a University of North Texas student at the time of his 2019 arrest in Moscow after he got drunk with a Russian co-worker’s friends. Police accused him of grabbing the arm of an officer as he was being taken to a station, causing the vehicle to swerve and endangering the lives of officers.

The U.S. ambassador called the allegation “preposterous,” noting that video showed no swerving.

Despite that, a Russian court handed Reed a nine-year prison term.

Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence in a Russian labor camp. Moscow police accused him of involvement in an intelligence operation and detained him in 2018 after purportedly finding a thumb drive filled with what they deemed classified information. Whelan maintains he was set up.

“It’s pretty simple. There was no crime. There was no evidence. The secret trial was a sham,” Whelan told CNN last week. “This was done purely for political motive.”

©2021 The Dallas Morning News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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