Russia Will Keep U.S. Soldier in Custody for Months, Local Media Report


An American soldier detained in Russia last week will remain in jail until at least July while the authorities investigate theft charges against him, the Russian news media reported on Tuesday, citing local court officials.

The soldier was detained in the port city of Vladivostok in the east of Russia on Thursday, a spokeswoman for the local court told the Russian business newspaper Kommersant. His detention came to light on Monday, when the U.S. State and Defense Departments said that he was being held.

An American military official identified him as Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, 34, an Army sergeant in the process of returning home to Texas after being stationed in South Korea.

A court in Vladivostok said in a news release on Tuesday that an American citizen identified only by the letter B had been detained on suspicion of robbing a woman, causing her “considerable harm.”

Officials in Moscow have not commented on the arrest, and the press office for Vladivostok’s courts did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Sergeant Black’s detention came to light as Vladimir V. Putin was preparing to be sworn in for his fifth term as Russia’s president on Tuesday, amid a bellicose standoff with the West.

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, which have clashed most notably over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and also over a host of other matters, including what Washington says is Moscow’s push to put a nuclear weapon in space.

Another American citizen has also separately been detained in Moscow. A Moscow court said on Tuesday that a man it identified as William Russell Nikum had been fined and given a 10-day jail sentence for being drunk and disorderly.

He has not been charged with more serious crimes, but in the past Russian officials have often extended minor prison sentences to keep government critics in custody. American officials have not commented on Mr. Russel’s arrest.

In Sergeant Black’s case, it was unclear why he was in Vladivostok, a militarized port near the headquarters of Russia’s Pacific Fleet that was closed to outsiders for decades under the Soviet Union. It was also unclear how he had obtained a visa to travel to Russia.

A State Department official on Monday reiterated the United States government’s warning for Americans not to travel to Russia.

NBC News reported on Monday that Sergeant Black had traveled to Vladivostok from South Korea to visit a woman with whom he was romantically involved. He had not informed his superiors about the trip, the outlet reported.

Ekaterina Bodyagina and Oleg Matsnev contributed reporting.



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