January 29, 2023

U.S. Marine veteran Trevor Reed, who was released in April from Russian detention, says the conditions under which WNBA star Brittney Griner and U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan are being kept are likely to be “terrible” based on his own experience. He said his time in Russian detainment was “really bad.”

“The cells there are, you know, extremely dirty,” he told “CBS Mornings” on Tuesday. “Food there is, you know, really bad. A lot of times the food there is rotten.”

In 2020, Reed was charged in Russia for committing violence against Russian officers, stemming from a drunken night out in Moscow the year prior. After serving three years of a nine-year sentence in Russian detention, Reed was released in exchange for Russian national Konstantin Yaroshenko, whom the U.S. had arrested on drug smuggling charges.

Reed says he has since regained the weight he lost while serving his sentence and that he’s feeling “really good” both physically and psychologically. 

He advises Griner and Whelan to “hang in there.”

“Just know that people are fighting for you and just know that you have a lot of people supporting you back here at home and that the highest levels of the U.S. government are attempting to get you out, so keep the faith,” he said. 

Last month, Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison after a drug possession conviction. And in 2020, Whelan was convicted of espionage by a Russian court and has since served two years of his nine-year sentence. 

Griner has since appealed her conviction.

“There’s a lot of waiting,” Reed recalled of his own experience appealing his conviction. “You may be requesting expertises or trying to find new evidence in order to appeal the ruling of the previous court during that time and that appeal could take, you know, years basically. In the end, all of the appeals are, you know, fake. They’re as fake as the first trial you receive. All courts in Russia are fake.”

But he noted that the detention facility Griner is being held at is most likely “significantly better” than where Whelan is.

“Conditions of forced labor camps there are, you know, significantly worse than the pretrial detention facilities that you go to first,” Reed said. 

The relationship between prisoners and prison officials in Russia, he said, are “not good.” “They don’t like Americans,” he said. 

The Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month said that the U.S. government has put forward a “substantial proposal” to Russia for the release of Griner and Whelan. 

“Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal,” Blinken said. 

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