Russia Detains US Soldier over Alleged Criminal Misconduct

A view of the bridge connecting the Russky Island and Vladivostok, in Russia
A view of the bridge connecting the Russky Island and Vladivostok, in Russia's far east, is seen on Aug. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Alexander Khitrov)

A U.S. Army soldier has been detained in Russia over allegations of criminal misconduct, the service said Monday.

The soldier was identified as Staff Sgt. Gordon Black by a U.S. official. He was arrested by Russian authorities last week in Vladivostok, an area northeast of the Korean peninsula near where the Russian Pacific fleet is headquartered, according to the Army.

The soldier may have been traveling to meet with a woman, possibly a girlfriend, according to reporting from Politico, and was arrested May 2. Russia's detainment of the soldier follows an incident last year in which a soldier based in South Korea, Pvt. Travis King, fled into North Korea and was briefly held by the regime.

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"The Russian Federation notified the U.S. Department of State of the criminal detention in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations," Cynthia Smith, an Army spokesperson, said in a statement. "The Army notified his family, and the U.S. Department of State is providing appropriate consular support to the soldier in Russia. Given the sensitivity of this matter, we are unable to provide additional details at this time."

It's unclear what led to the soldier being detained. Russian authorities have a long track record of taking foreigners into custody on trumped-up charges. Those prisoners are often used as bargaining chips for prisoner exchanges or other political purposes. NBC reported that the soldier is accused of stealing from the woman he was meeting.

The news comes as Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, has been jailed since March 2023 in Russia on espionage charges. Paul Whelan, a Marine veteran, is also in custody on espionage charges.

Brittney Griner, an American basketball star, was imprisoned in Russia for 10 months before being released in 2022 by the Russian government in a prisoner swap for a notorious Russian arms dealer.

In July, King fled into North Korea as he was facing a dishonorable discharge and other disciplinary actions amid allegations of insubordination, assault and possession of child pornography. He was returned to the U.S. two months later. King is still assigned to the Army's 1st Armored Division, a spokesperson confirmed to last month. It's unclear when the service plans to take disciplinary action against him.

Editor's note: This story was updated with a source confirming the soldier's identity. 

Related: Pvt. Travis King, Soldier Who Fled to North Korea, Faces Desertion and Child Pornography Charges

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