Russia will hold an American soldier in custody for months, local media report

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

The soldier was arrested on Thursday in the eastern Russian port city of Vladivostok, a local court spokesman told Russian business daily Kommersant. His detention came to light on Monday, when the US departments of State and Defense said he was being held.

A U.S. military officer identified him as Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, 34, an Army sergeant about to return home to Texas after being stationed in South Korea.

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

Moscow officials have not commented on the arrest, and the press office of the Vladivostok courts did not immediately respond to requests for comment 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 often trumped-up charges, according to U.S. officials. The high-profile detentions have eroded already frayed relations between Russia and the United States, which have clashed in particular over Russia's invasion of Ukraine and also over a range of other issues, including what Washington says is Moscow's push to acquire a nuclear weapon. in the space.

Another American citizen was also arrested separately in Moscow. A Moscow court said on Tuesday that a man identified as William Russell Nikum had been fined and sentenced to 10 days in prison for being drunk and disorderly.

He has not been charged with more serious crimes, but Russian officials in the past have often extended shorter prison sentences to keep government critics in custody. American officials have not commented on Mr. Russell'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 is also unclear how he obtained a visa to travel to Russia.

A State Department official on Monday reiterated the U.S. government's warning to Americans not to travel to Russia.

NBC News reported 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 of the trip, the outlet reported.

Ekaterina Bodyagina AND Oleg Matsnev contributed to the reporting.

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