US soldier detained in Russia and accused of theft

US soldier detained in Russia on charges of criminal misconduct, adding to strained relations.

Law enforcement officers walk along the Kremlin wall [Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]Published On 7 May 20247 May 2024

A United States soldier has been detained in Vladivostok on charges of theft in Russia’s latest high-profile detention of an American.

Russia’s RIA state news agency reported on Tuesday that the soldier, identified by the court as Gordon Black, would be detained until July 2.

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Speaking on condition of anonymity, US officials told the Associated Press news agency that the soldier, Staff Sergeant Gordon Black, 34, who is married, was stationed in South Korea and was in the process of returning home to Texas.

Instead, they said he travelled to Russia to see a longtime girlfriend.

Another US official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Reuters news agency Black was accused of stealing from a woman.

The soldier’s arrest is likely to further complicate relations between the US and Russia, which have grown increasingly tense as the war in Ukraine has dragged on.

Cynthia Smith, a spokeswoman for the US Army, confirmed that a soldier had been detained on Thursday in Vladivostok, a major Pacific port, on charges of criminal misconduct. She said Russia notified the US and the Army told the soldier’s family.

“The US Department of State is providing appropriate consular support to the soldier in Russia,” Smith said.

The soldier’s arrest was first reported by NBC News.

‘Wrongfully detained’

President Joe Biden’s administration has been lobbying Moscow to release multiple Americans, including Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

Gershkovich, 32, became the first US journalist arrested on spying charges in Russia since the Cold War when he was detained by the Federal Security Service (FSB) on March 29 last year. He, his newspaper and the US government all deny he is a spy.

Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, an American convicted of spying against Russia and sentenced to 16 years in 2020, have both been designated by the US State Department as “wrongfully detained”, meaning Washington considers the charges against them bogus and is committed to working for their release.

Asked about the soldier’s detention, a US State Department spokesperson confirmed only that “a US citizen has been detained in Russia”.

“We reiterate our strong warnings about the danger posed to US citizens inside the Russian Federation. US citizens residing or travelling in Russia should depart immediately, as stated in our Travel Advisory for Russia,” the State Department spokesperson said.

“Due to privacy and other considerations we have no further details to provide at this time.”

The arrest comes less than a year after American soldier Travis King sprinted into North Korea across the heavily fortified border between the Koreas. North Korea later announced that it would expel King, who was returned to the US. He was eventually charged with desertion.

Source: News Agencies