Who is the US soldier detained in Russia?

US Staff Sergeant Gordon Black was detained on May 2 by police in the Russian far eastern city of Vladivostok.
Last Updated : 08 May 2024, 10:37 IST
Last Updated : 08 May 2024, 10:37 IST

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Moscow: US Staff Sergeant Gordon Black was detained on May 2 by police in the Russian far eastern city of Vladivostok on suspicion of stealing from a woman he was in a relationship with.

What happened?

The local section of Russia's interior ministry said Black was detained at a hotel in the city after a 32-year-old woman made a complaint to police about a theft following an argument.

The unnamed Russian woman had been in a relationship with Black after meeting in South Korea, the ministry said. When she returned to Vladivostok, they had kept in touch online.

Black arrived in Vladivostok on April 10. They had an argument of some sort at her home, the ministry said.

"After he left, the girl discovered money was missing and turned to the police for help," the ministry said. "Police officers found the suspect in one of the city hotels. He had purchased airline tickets and intended to fly home."

Russia's Izvestia newspaper cited an unidentified source as saying that he had beaten the woman and stolen 200,000 Russian roubles ($2,200).

Neither Black nor representatives for him could be reached for comment on his version of events. But his mother Melody Jones has told ABC News she was worried about his going to Russia and felt he was "set up".

Where is he?

The Pervomaisky District Court of Vladivostok said it had decided to detain Black in pre-trial detention until July 2 for "secretly stealing the property of citizen T, causing the latter significant damage."

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the case had no political element and there were no allegations of espionage.

Radio Free Europe said it had found a TikTok account of Black’s romantic partner, Aleksandra Vashchuk, who posted numerous videos of the couple together in South Korea, including at least one showing Black in his US Army fatigues.

Among the hundreds of often profanity-laced TikTok videos posted by Vashchuk, Radio Free Europe said there were several in which she refers to Black as her "husband" and affectionately as "pindos," a Russian slang word for Americans that roughly translates to "Yankee punk."

Vashchuk could not be reached for comment.

What's his army background?

The Pentagon said Black enlisted in the US Army as an infantryman in 2008. He was most recently assigned to Eighth Army, US Forces Korea, at Camp Humphreys in the Republic of South Korea.

On April 10, he signed out of the Eighth Army on a permanent change of station to return to Fort Cavazos in Texas, the Pentagon said.

But instead of returning to the United States, he flew from Korea to China and then to Vladivostok. The Pentagon said he went to Russia "for personal reasons."

Did he break the rules?

The Pentagon said he broke rules with his unauthorised travel to both China and Russia.

"The Army has opened an administrative investigation to determine the facts and the circumstances surrounding his travel," the Pentagon said. "Official or any leave to Russia is strictly prohibited."

The US State Department advises against all travel to Russia, which it ranks as a maximum danger alongside countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and Sudan.

"Do not travel to Russia," the State Department says, citing the war in Ukraine and "the potential for harassment and the singling out of US citizens for detention by Russian government security officials."

Basketball star Brittney Griner was detained in Russia in a drugs case then freed last year in a prisoner swap, while Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is detained on espionage charges.

Published 08 May 2024, 10:37 IST

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