Gordon and Aleksandra: Videos, Photos Show Relationship Between Detained Soldier and Russian Woman

Russian submarine takes part in Pacific Fleet drills near Vladivostok
In this handout photo taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Friday, April 14, 2023, A Russian submarine sails off to take part in the Pacific Fleet drills near Vladivostok, Russia. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

A U.S. soldier being held on criminal misconduct charges by Russia had a long and seemingly rocky romantic relationship with a Russian woman in South Korea before traveling to Vladivostok, where he was detained.

Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, 34, an infantryman most recently assigned to the Eighth Army at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, was on leave and supposed to be en route to the U.S. Instead, he flew to China and eventually to the city in southeastern Russia to meet with the woman, Aleksandra Vashchuk, where Russian authorities claim he stole money.

Videos and photos posted to social media resurfaced Tuesday showing Black and Vashchuk together in South Korea, apparently showcasing their relationship. In one of the videos, Black is interviewed by Vashchuk and says NATO is "pretty aggressive," that he understands Russia's position on Ukraine, and that U.S. policy toward Russia was better under former President Donald Trump -- as Vashchuk prompts him to criticize President Joe Biden.

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The video suggests Black is Vashchuk's husband, but the nature of their relationship was unclear and the Army declined to release Black's relationship status, citing privacy concerns.

However, court records show that Black was married before meeting Vashchuk and filed for divorce in Texas in April 2022. Black has one child from that marriage, and in January 2023, the court ordered some of his pay to be garnished to support his family, according to the records.

It is not clear from the records if the divorce was ever finalized. Entries in the record cite Black's deployment to Korea as a reason that a final hearing in March 2023 was canceled.

On Facebook, Military.com found an account where Vashchuk posted several sets of photos of herself and Black. The oldest set of photos was taken in June 2023 in a town about 20 miles from Camp Humphreys, while the latest were posted in January.

Russian state-controlled media reports alleged Black stole 200,000 rubles from Vashchuk, equivalent to around $2,200, and had some other domestic altercation. He's currently being held in pre-trial confinement.

"He had no business going to see his girlfriend in Russia, and he shouldn't have made her mad while he was there so she wouldn't have called the police," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told Military.com. "This is a boy that made a bad decision, and now he's dealing with the consequences."

When asked whether Russia may try to exploit the situation, Rogers added, "Yeah, they always do. But there's nothing new about that."

Russian officials say the case is not related to espionage -- a typical trumped-up charge the Kremlin uses to imprison foreigners to use as political bargaining chips. The country released American basketball star Brittney Griner in 2022 in a prisoner swap for a notorious Russian arms dealer, and it is still holding Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, and Paul Whelan, a Marine veteran.

"This case has no relation to politics or espionage. As far as we understand, a household crime [is suspected] in this case. That is why the Russian Foreign Ministry's mission in Vladivostok is not following the case of the U.S. citizen closely," the ministry's Vladivostok bureau told TASS, a state-owned news agency based in Moscow.

The video posted to social media by Vashchuk where she appears to interview Black -- first reported by Radio Free Europe -- was portrayed as an answer to a comment posed to her on TikTok about what her husband thinks about "the situation between Russia and America."

Black's comments track closely with Russia's propaganda meant to justify its brutal invasion of Ukraine and its ongoing war there.

Another video archived by Radio Free Europe shows Black in an Army uniform with his name tape clearly visible.

In recent years, the Russian government has leveraged online platforms, most notably TikTok, to disseminate messages from the Kremlin, in many cases messages that are subtle and meant to blend seamlessly into viewers' feeds and not come across as government-sanctioned communications.

Military.com reached out to members of Black's family and Vashchuk but did not receive a reply in time for publication. Since the Army acknowledged Black's detention, both the Facebook and TikTok accounts run by Vashchuk have been made private.

"Please do not torture him [or] hurt him," Melody Jones, Black's mother, told CBS News on Monday when asked what her message to Russia would be.

Black was on leave and in the midst of relocating to Fort Cavazos, Texas, when he was detained.

His trip to Russia, and China for his connecting flight, was unauthorized, as travel to those countries for service members requires special clearance. However, officials say there is no evidence he intended to stay in Russia or desert from the Army.

Whether Black will face disciplinary actions when he eventually returns to the U.S. will be left up to the Army, Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokesperson, told reporters Tuesday.

Black enlisted into the Army in 2008 and deployed twice to Afghanistan. Images of him in uniform suggest he also spent time as a drill sergeant.

He is the second Camp Humphreys soldier to cause an international incident with a U.S. adversary in less than a year.

In July, Pvt. Travis King fled to North Korea on foot and was held by the regime for about two months. King was returned to the U.S., where he faces a dishonorable discharge and other disciplinary actions amid allegations of assault, insubordination and possession of child pornography.

King is still assigned to the Army's 1st Armored Division in Fort Bliss, Texas; it's unclear when the Army plans to remove him from the service.

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

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