May 24, 2024

A man who has been identified by American officials as an Army sergeant was detained in Russia last week after a local woman reported him on allegations of theft, the Russian authorities said on Tuesday. He will remain in jail until at least July, they said.

The detention of the soldier, Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, 34, came to light on Monday, when the U.S. State and Defense Departments said that he was being held. He was detained in the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok while he was in the process of returning home to Texas, after being stationed in South Korea.

Instead of returning directly to the United States, Sergeant Black traveled through China to Vladivostok “for personal reasons,” according to Cynthia O. Smith, a U.S. Army spokeswoman. She said that he “did not request official clearance” and that the Defense Department “did not authorize his travel to China and Russia.”

An official with the Russian Ministry of Interior informed the U.S. Embassy in Moscow last week that he had been arrested “for theft of personal property,” and the embassy and army notified his family soon after, according to a statement from Ms. Smith.

Officials in Moscow have not commented on the arrest. The press office for Vladivostok’s courts said in a statement that Sergeant Black had been detained last Thursday, but it did not respond to requests for further comment.

A Vladivostok police spokeswoman, Irina Sirova, said a 32-year-old woman reported Sergeant Black to the police when she discovered that she was missing money after a falling out with the American. Sergeant Black met the woman in South Korea and came to visit her in Russia on April 10, Ms. Sirova said in a video posted on social media.

Vladivostok is a major port near the headquarters of Russia’s Pacific Fleet. The city was closed to outsiders for decades under the Soviet Union, and it retains a strong military presence to this day.

Sergeant Black will remain in pretrial detention there while he is investigated, Ms. Sirova added.

Sergeant Black’s detention came to light as Vladimir V. Putin was preparing to be sworn in for his fifth term as Russia’s president on Tuesday, amid a bellicose standoff with the West.

Sergeant Black is the latest American to be detained in Russia in recent years on what U.S. officials say are often trumped-up charges. The higher-profile detentions have gnawed at the already frayed relationship between Russia and the United States, which have clashed most notably over Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and also over a host of other matters, including what Washington says is Moscow’s push to put a nuclear weapon in space.

Another American citizen has also separately been detained in Moscow. A Moscow court said on Tuesday that a man it identified as William Russell Nikum had been fined and given a 10-day jail sentence for being drunk and disorderly.

He has not been charged with more serious crimes, but in the past Russian officials have often extended minor prison sentences to keep government critics in custody. American officials have not commented on Mr. Nikum’s arrest.

A State Department official on Monday reiterated the United States government’s warning for Americans not to travel to Russia.

NBC News reported on Monday that Sergeant Black had traveled to Vladivostok to visit a romantic interest without informing his superiors about the trip.

Ekaterina Bodyagina and Oleg Matsnev contributed reporting.

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