Russian court sentences American soldier to nearly four years in prison for theft

MOSCOW (AP) β€” A court in the far-eastern Russian city of Vladivostok on Wednesday sentenced a U.S. soldier arrested earlier this year to three years and nine months in prison for robbery and threats of murder, reports said. Russian media reported.

Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, 34, traveled to Vladivostok, a Pacific port city, to see his girlfriend and was arrested after she accused him of stealing from her, according to U.S. and Russian officials.

Russian state news agencies Tass and RIA Novosti reported from the courtroom of Vladivostok’s Pervomaisky District Court that the judge also ordered Black to pay 10,000 rubles ($115) in damages. Prosecutors had asked that Black be sentenced to four years and eight months in prison.

Black’s conviction further complicates relations between the United States and Russia, which have become increasingly strained as fighting in Ukraine continues.

Russia is detaining a number of Americans in its prisons, including a corporate security manager Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovitch. The U.S. government has designated both men as wrongfully detained and is trying to negotiate their release.

Other delays include Travis Leave, a musician who has lived in Russia for years and was arrested last year on drug charges; Marc Fogel, a Moscow teacher sentenced to 14 years in prison, also for drug trafficking; and dual nationality Alsou Kurmasheva And Ksenia Khavana.

The US Department of State strongly advises US citizens against traveling to Russia.

Per Pentagon policy, military personnel must obtain authorization from a security official or commander for all international travel.

The US military said last month that Black had not requested authorization for the international trip and that it was not authorized by the Department of Defense. Given the hostilities in Ukraine and the threats to the United States and its military, it is extremely unlikely that he would have obtained this approval.

Black was on leave and was about to return to his home base at Fort Cavazos, Texas, from South Korea, where he was stationed at Camp Humphreys with the Eighth Army.

Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said Black signed for his return home and, “instead of returning to the continental United States, Black flew from Incheon, R.P. from Korea, via China to Vladivostok, Russia, for personal reasons.”

Black’s girlfriend, Alexandra Vashchuk, told reporters earlier this month that “it was a simple domestic dispute,” during which Black “became aggressive and attacked her.” β€œHe then stole money from my wallet and I did not give him permission to do it,” Vashchuk said.

U.S. officials said Black, who is married, met his girlfriend in South Korea.

According to U.S. officials, the Russian woman had lived in South Korea, and last fall she and Black had some sort of domestic argument or altercation. After that, she left South Korea. It is not clear whether she was forced to leave or what role, if any, South Korean authorities played in the matter.

Leave a Comment