Russia Sentences U.S. Soldier to 4 Years in Prison

A Russian court sentenced a U.S. Army sergeant to nearly four years in jail on Wednesday for stealing the equivalent of about $100 from a woman with whom he was romantically involved and for making death threats against her.

Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, 34, was arrested in the Pacific port of Vladivostok last month after a criminal complaint made by the woman, who has not been publicly identified by the authorities. He had traveled to Russia to visit her after completing a posting in South Korea.

A statement published by a Vladivostok court said that Sergeant Black had stolen the money and threatened her life during a domestic argument. The statement said that the theft had caused “considerable harm” to the woman.

Several Russian criminal lawyers said that the sentence was much stricter than what a Russian citizen could expect to receive for such charges.

Russian news accounts have reported that Sergeant Black had met the woman in South Korea and that they had both frequently posted photos on social media of their time together.

Sergeant Black was scheduled to return home to Texas at the time of his arrest, U.S. officials said at the time. He did not inform his superiors about his trip to Russia, they have said.

In earlier court appearances, Sergeant Black denied making death threats but pleaded guilty to some counts of theft. His lawyer told reporters that the sentence would be appealed.

If the sentence is upheld, Sergeant Black would serve time at a low-security penal colony, according to the court.

Sergeant Black is the latest American to be detained in Russia in recent years on what U.S. officials say are often trumped-up charges. The higher-profile detentions have gnawed at the already frayed relationship between Russia and the United States, especially in light of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago.

The sentencing of Sergeant Black comes as Russia prepares to try another American, Evan Gershkovich, on an espionage charge. Next Wednesday, a Russian court will hold the first hearing in the trial of Mr. Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, behind closed doors.

Mr. Gershkovich, 32, was detained by security agents in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, about 900 miles east of Moscow, more than a year ago. He had worked in Russia as a journalist for various publications for more than five years before his arrest.

The Wall Street Journal and the U.S. government have denied the charges against him. The State Department has designated Mr. Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained,” which effectively compels it to work for his safe release.

Alina Lobzina contributed reporting.

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