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Who is Konstantin Yaroshenko? Russian pilot freed in return for US Marine Trevor Reed

Yaroshenko was serving a prison time of 20 years in a US jail for drug trafficking
UPDATED APR 28, 2022
Konstantin Yaroshenko (L) has been swapped for Trevor Reed (R) (Twitter/ @mfa_russia and Twitter/@NsuarezDiaz)
Konstantin Yaroshenko (L) has been swapped for Trevor Reed (R) (Twitter/ @mfa_russia and Twitter/@NsuarezDiaz)

A former US Marine, named Trevor Reed, has finally got the opportunity to return to his homeland after spending almost three years in a Russian prison. Reed’s homecoming is reportedly happening after Moscow agreed to free him in exchange for a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, who had been behind bars in an American jail since 2010 for drug trafficking.

While the Russian native was awarded 20 years of jail time in the US, Reed was jailed in 2019 in Moscow for nine years for assaulting two cops. After the two countries exchanged prisoners on Wednesday, April 27, Biden took to Twitter to write: “Today, we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family that missed him dearly. A former U.S. Marine, he is now free from Russian detention. I was delighted to be able to share with his family the good news about Trevor’s freedom.”


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He added: “I’m grateful for the work of many across our government. Trevor’s safe return is a testament to the priority we place on bringing home Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad.” Besides, a statement from the White House read: “I’m grateful for the tireless and dedicated work of Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation John Sullivan, and many others across our government to ensure that Trevor came home safely. The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly.”

Who is Konstantin Yaroshenko?

Yaroshenko is a 53-year-old man, whose birthplace is Rostov-on-don — a city in southern Russia. As per reports, he worked in the Russian military for three years and also attended civilian flight school. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 199, he apparently struggled to make ends meet. It has been said that sometimes to earn money, he used to work with transportation flight crews around Africa.

However, almost after 20 years, Yaroshenko was reportedly offered a job to transport cocaine from South America to Liberia. He was also informed that some of the drugs were meant to be sent to the US. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) began to monitor the case and claimed that Yaroshenko and a Nigerian man, Chigbo Peter Umeh, struck a deal with someone else (who actually was a DEA source). They also gave money to Liberian officials for the illegal work.

But even before drugs were transported, DEA arrested Yaroshenko along with Umeh in Liberia in May 2010 and they were shifted to the US, where they faced trial. While the Russian was charged with one count of conspiring to manufacture and distribute over five kilograms of cocaine and was given two decades of punishment in the low-security FCI Danbury in Connecticut, Umeh was awarded 30 years.

At the time of Yaroshenko’s sentencing, Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara had said: “Konstantin Yaroshenko agreed to play a vital role in a vast, international drug conspiracy that attempted to transform the country of Liberia into a transshipment hub for ton quantities of cocaine. But unbeknownst to his coconspirators, the same Liberian officials they attempted to bribe were working in lockstep with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration to take him and his co-conspirators down.”

But Moscow had a different story to say as the Russian foreign ministry in 2019 accused the US of “kidnapping” him. On Twitter, the ministry had written: “#Zakharova: We urge the #US authorities to take immediate action to restore the legal rights of Konstantin #Yaroshenko. We demand the torture is stopped and he is returned to his homeland. #Zakharova: To begin with, Konstantin Yaroshenko was kidnapped from another country, subjected to a sadistic beating, then convicted on very dubious charges and continued to be tortured in prison, denied medical help. This torture has been going on for 9⃣ years.”




However, now since Yaroshenko’s freedom has been secured, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia shared a tweet, stating: “Russian MFA Spokesperson Maria #Zakharova: On April 27, 2022, as a result of a lengthy negotiation process US national Trevor #Reed, convicted in Russia, was exchanged for Konstantin #Yaroshenko, a Russian citizen, who was sentenced by the US court for 20 years in prison.”