US Service Member Taken Into Custody in Russia

US Service Member Taken Into Custody in Russia

(LibertyInsider.org) – Due to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and Russia’s hostility toward the US, the Department of State has been cautioning Americans not to travel to the country. In September 2023, it escalated the country‚Äôs travel advisory to Level 4: Do Not Travel due to the risk of wrongful detentions. Now, a US soldier has been arrested in the country.

On Monday, May 6, Russian officials confirmed they had detained an American soldier the prior Thursday in Vladivostok “on charges of criminal misconduct.” The US Army, in a statement, noted that Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, who was stationed in South Korea, made the trip on his own time, not on official business. He had completed his deployment and was visiting the country to see a woman he was reportedly romantically linked to.

Black did not receive permission to travel to the nation from his superiors. Russia is currently holding him in pretrial confinement, accusing him of stealing from a woman. Reports indicate he was accused of stealing from the woman he was meeting with.

According to US Army spokesperson Cynthia Smith, Russia notified the US of the detainment. She said the military also informed his family, and the US State Department “is providing appropriate consular support” to Black. She refused to comment further on the pending charges. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby also told the press he was unable to “say much about [the situation] right now” but did confirm the Biden Administration was aware of Black’s detention. Russia has reportedly ruled that Black will remain in custody until July 2.

Unsurprisingly, the US has noted an uptick in Americans detained in Russia, particularly as diplomatic relations between the two countries have soured in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the West’s support of the war-torn country. The US is still trying to get journalist Evan Gershkovich and former Marine Paul Whelan released. Whelan was thought to be part of the exchange with WNBA player Brittney Griner, but a deal reportedly fell through.

The US continues to maintain that Russia is arresting Americans to use them as bargaining chips in future negotiations.

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