The parents of a former US marine who has been imprisoned in Russia for nearly two years have implored Joe Biden to make a deal with Vladimir Putin to secure their son’s freedom.
As the US president prepares to meet with his Russian counterpart in a Wednesday summit, Paula and Joey Reed have said they believe Mr Biden has the power to bring their son, Trevor Reed, home.
“He's being held as a pawn to try and leverage concessions in a political dispute between our two countries in which he has no part, and it's time to let him come home to Texas,” the two wrote in a statement obtained by CNN.
The couple told CNN’s John Berman that they were unhappy with how former President Donald Trump had handled the situation.
“The things that administration didn’t do, other than Pompeo occasionally, was speak publicly against the things that the Russian government has done,” said Mr Reed.
“As far as our son goes, Trump and Pompeo never said his name.”
Mr Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2020 after being accused of endangering the “life and health” of Russian police officers during an altercation while he was under the influence of alcohol.
The former marine and his family have denied the charges, while US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan has branded his trial “theatre of the absurd”.
Since his detention, the Reed family has been pleading for their son’s release, particularly after he contracted coronavirus while detained.
The former marine wrote to his family of his suffering, complaining of pain in his lungs and dealing with high blood pressure.
In the 7 June letter, which was also obtained by CNN, Mr Reed also complained of losing weight and asked for meat to be sent to him.
He further questioned whether the US embassy in Moscow and US State Department were even aware of his situation.
The US Embassy in Moscow has said it has been blocked from accessing Mr Reed, with Chargé d’affaires Bartle Gorman calling for urgent access.
“We insist that this brazen attempt to isolate Mr. Reed from both his family and his government immediately cease,” he said in a statement published online.
According to Mr Gorman, Mr Reed was diagnosed with Covid-19 on 25 May and had been “repeatedly denied” phone calls to his family or embassy personnel.
The embassy charge d’affaires also said the facility where he was hospitalised had repeatedly refused to provide “even a single update or piece of information about his health for more than two weeks”.
The refusals, he said, represented a “clear violation of both the bilateral Consular Convention and the international Vienna Convention on Consular Relations”.
The former marine’s parents have said they believe their son has been targeted because of his military career, which they say included assignments at the Marine barracks in Washington, DC, and at Camp David under the Obama administration.
They also believe their son is being held as part of broader tensions between the US and Russia, with Mr Biden himself acknowledging on Sunday following G7 talks in the UK that the relationship between the two countries is at a “low point”.
“Trevor’s played by the rules his whole life. He hasn’t even gotten a traffic ticket,” Mr Reed’s parents said in their emotional plea.
“We’re terribly worried about his health and well-being and we’re pleading with Presidents Biden and Putin to work something out,” they said. “This has gone on too long.”