A Russian pilot has been freed from US custody amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Konstantin Yaroshenko’s release comes more than a decade after he was imprisoned by the US.
Who is Konstantin Yaroshenko?
Konstantin Yaroshenko, 53, has been in US custody since 2010 when he was arrested and sentenced to prison for drug smuggling.
Yaroshenko was born near the Ukrainian border in Rostov-on-Don, southwestern Russia, in 1968 and grew up relatively normally, ABC News reported.
He attended civilian flight school after serving three years in the Russian military, but when he left flight school and returned to the factory where he worked, he faced difficult times.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Yaroshenko looked for ways to make money, including working with flight crews in Africa and driving a taxi when he was home.
Everything changed in 2010 when Yaroshenko was approached by Paddy McKay, an acquaintance who said he needed someone to help him with a transport job and they were being well paid for their efforts.
In March of this year, McKay introduced Yaroshenko to Nabil Hage, who told him that if he helped supply and future shipments of cocaine, he would be paid millions of dollars.
Yaroshenko met with Chigbo Umeh, a convicted Liberian drug smuggler who arranged for Yaroshenko to transport more than four tons of cocaine for $4.5 million.
The cocaine would be shipped from Venezuela to Liberia and Yaroshenko was reportedly told he would be paid an additional $1.2 million to bring some of the drugs from Liberia to Ghana.
The US and Liberian governments followed Umeh’s plan to smuggle drugs into their respective countries and intervened to arrest Umeh just days after Yaroshenko agreed to the plan.
What happened to Konstantin Yaroshenko?
The United States Enforcement Administration and the government of Liberia conducted a joint covert operation titled Operation Relentless in 2010.
Yaroshenko was discovered as part of drug smuggling and arrested in Liberia on May 28, 2010.
Two days later, Yaroshenko was handed over to US authorities and taken to the US to await sentencing.
Yaroshenko received only one charge of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine out of South America because the drugs had not been transported at the time of his arrest.
According to court documents, the operation found that Yaroshenko had “agreed to play a major role in a vast international drug conspiracy that attempted to turn the country of Liberia into a hub for tons of cocaine.”
The documents revealed that Yaroshenko planned to smuggle cocaine from South America to Liberia, the US and other countries.
He was convicted on September 7, 2011 and being held at a facility in Danbury, Connecticut, where he was serving a 20-year sentence.
Why was Konstantin Yaroshenko released?
President Joe Biden has agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin to release Yaroshenko in exchange for the release of former US Marine Trevor Reed.
Putin had previously offered to release American prisoners in exchange for Yaroshenko in 2019, alternatively asking then-President Donald Trump for a pardon.
The request was denied at the time, but Biden resumed the conversation after Reed’s family asked that he do whatever it takes to get him home.
Reed has been in Russian custody since 2020 for allegedly getting drunk in public and endangering the “life and health” of Russian police officers, the Washington Post reported.
Reed denied the allegations, saying the charges against him were “politically motivated.”
Biden agreed to release Yaroshenko in exchange for Reed, and the swap took place in Turkey on April 27, 2022.
Upon Reed’s return home, Biden said in a statement, “The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “Using wrongful detention as a bargaining chip poses a threat to the security of everyone working, traveling and living abroad.”
Yaroshenko was taken back to his home in Russia and when his wife Viktoria heard he was coming home, she told the Washington Post: “They told me he was coming today.
“I want to cry. I will go to the airport.”
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https://www.the-sun.com/news/5222207/who-is-konstantin-yaroshenko/ Who is Konstantin Yaroshenko?