I have always acted on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
The United States may be an enemy of Russia, and I love my country very much. But I consider this Russian government to be the enemy of the Russian people.
Vladimir Putin and his cronies have plundered our country and are oppressing its people. Corruption and extortion is all around. Russians feel intimidated and fear repression by the state. We have a resource-rich country yet our people are poor.
So I decided to help the US as a friend.
While working as a police officer in the Russian interior ministry, I began passing information to CIA agents. I told them about the ministry’s secret plans, gave them the names of some people from the FSB, and revealed some objectives of Russia’s ministry of defence.
I felt that I could help fight the government from inside my country. I believed that no good could come of the Russian people unless the Putin regime were overthrown.
Then I was caught.
Four years ago, I was arrested and locked in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison – Joseph Stalin’s preferred destination for political detainees. The conditions were terrible. I was kept in a freezing cell and the heating was turned off in winter. There was no proper medical care. I was bullied by FSB officers who threatened to set up an accident that would kill me. I still have neurosis.
Since March 2016, I have been in correctional colony number 11 in Bor, in the Nizhny Novgorod region. I am in a cell with a dozen other men. Inmates are fed soup made with rotten cabbage. I have complained to the European court of human rights about problems such as overcrowding. My application is being considered.
I am now approximately four years into a 13-year prison sentence for treason. I was accused of selling secrets for money, but this was not true. After my crime in favour of the US, my family and I are in great danger in Russia. But I believe that Donald Trump can help.
In Russia there are people who, like me, at a huge risk of our own lives, helped the US government and intelligence services and ended up in prison. In the US, there are people in prisons who worked for Russia. I want to appeal to the president to conduct an exchange.
My parents are pensioners and are in a difficult financial situation. My mother has had to begin working again because their pensions do not cover their medication.
My wife has already been interviewed by the FSB. She went to the US embassy in Ukraine to obtain a tourist visa. But her application was refused and she was forced to return home, where military personnel assaulted and intimidated her. I wrote two letters to the CIA asking them to help and received no response.
But in the US, my family could live safely. I urge Trump to grant asylum in the US to my wife and mother.
I believe that relations at the diplomatic level between the US and Russia need to be adjusted and that Trump’s position on this is actually correct. Constructive and friendly relations will be beneficial to all people of Russia and the US.
Yevgeny Chistov is a Russian former policeman convicted for spying for the CIA.