US soldier Gordon Black sentenced to nearly four years in prison in Russia

Legend, Staff Sergeant Gordon Black, seen here earlier this month, was convicted by a court in Vladivostok, in Russia’s far east.

  • Author, George Wright
  • Role, BBC News

A Russian court sentenced a US soldier to three years and nine months in prison for stealing and threatening to kill his girlfriend, state news agencies reported.

Staff Sergeant Gordon Black was convicted by a court in Vladivostok, in the Russian Far East, and will serve his sentence in a penal colony.

Sgt Black, who was arrested in May, had pleaded not guilty to charges of threatening to murder, but admitted he was “partially” guilty of stealing 10,000 rubles ($116; £89) from her.

He will appeal the verdict, official news agencies said.

Prosecutors had requested a sentence of four years and eight months in prison, while his defense asked for his acquittal.

U.S. officials said Sgt Black, 34, met his girlfriend in South Korea.

He enlisted as an infantryman in 2008 and deployed to Iraq in 2009 and Afghanistan in 2013. He was recently assigned to Eighth Army, U.S. Forces Korea at Camp Humphreys.

The U.S. Army said Sgt Black did not seek official permission and the Department of Defense did not authorize his travel to Russia or China, where he first went to his returning from South Korea. There is no evidence that he intended to stay in Russia.

Russia is holding other Americans behind bars. Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been in prison since March 2023, while former US Marine Paul Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020.

Alsou Kurmasheva, Russian-American editor of the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has been detained since October and faces up to 10 years in prison for spreading false information about the Russian military.

A court on Tuesday refused to release Ms Kurmasheva from prison before her trial.

The three maintain their innocence and the U.S. government says the charges against them are baseless.

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