Russian court says American man jailed for drunken "petty hooliganism"


Moscow — A Moscow court said Tuesday that it had sentenced a U.S. citizen to 10 days in detention for petty hooliganism after he stumbled drunkenly into a children’s library and passed out. News of the American’s detention came just hours after Russian and U.S. authorities said a U.S. soldier was being held in custody in the far eastern city of Vladivostok on suspicion of theft in a separate case.

Russia’s REN TV said the man detained in Moscow had climbed through the window of a children’s library in the Russian capital and fallen asleep while drunk. Video aired by the network showed a person, partially clothed, laying in what appeared to be a courtyard of the building.

It said the man had been staying with friends in Moscow on a tourist visa and ended up at the library after being out with friends at a bar.

In a statement posted on its official channel on the Telegram messaging app, the Khoroshevsky District Court of Moscow said the man, identified as Nikum William Russell, was sentenced to 10 days under “administrative arrest” on a charge of petty hooliganism after he “drank alcoholic beverages, then was found in the courtyard, naked, expressing clear disrespect for society, citizens and public order.”

There was no immediate confirmation of the arrest from U.S. authorities.

U.S. soldier arrested, accused of theft

News of the American’s detention came just hours after Russian and U.S. authorities said a U.S. soldier was being held in custody in the far eastern city of Vladivostok on suspicion of theft. The U.S. Army said the soldier, identified by a court in Vladivostok and by U.S. officials to CBS News as Gordon Black, was being detained on criminal charges.

The U.S. Army sergeant, who was stationed in South Korea, was accused of stealing from a woman, two Pentagon officials told CBS News on Monday, confirming information provided by Russian authorities.

Black had been in the process of changing duty stations from Korea to Fort Cavazos (Ft. Hood) in the U.S., and he was not in Russia on official travel for the military, the U.S. officials told CBS News.

Black enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantryman in 2008, Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said. He deployed to Iraq from Oct. 2009 through Sept. 2010, and then to Afghanistan from June 2013 until March 2014.

He was an instructor at the Non-Commissioned Officer Academy in South Korea, according to one official and Black’s mother. Black’s records say that he’s married; his mother says he has a 7-year-old daughter in Texas and is in the process of obtaining a divorce.

The soldier’s mother, Melody Jones, said he was in Russia visiting his girlfriend.

“Please do not torture him [or] hurt him,” she said when asked about her message to the Russians.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday that the U.S. was “aware of this case and other matters related to Russia,” but said he couldn’t “say much about it right now.” NBC News first reported that a soldier had been detained in Russia over the weekend.

Vladivostok city police said they had arrested a 34-year-old foreigner and opened a criminal case over theft causing significant harm to the victim, punishable by up to five years in prison. The police said he was being held in a pre-trial detention center in the city.

The force said the man had begun a relationship with a Russian woman while she was working in South Korea. They kept in touch online and he flew to visit her on April 10. The couple had a “conflict” and the man left, according to the police.

Afterward, the woman found money was missing and called police, who tracked down the man in a hotel as he was preparing to fly out to the U.S., the police said. Russian newspaper Izvestia reported earlier, citing a source, that the man had stolen 200,000 rubles ($2,200) and beaten the woman up.

Russia denies any link to “politics or espionage”

A Russian foreign ministry representative in Vladivostok told TASS state news agency that the case was not linked to politics.

“This case is not related to politics or espionage. As far as we understand this is a purely domestic crime. Therefore the foreign ministry branch in Vladivostok is not following the U.S. citizen’s fate closely.”

Republican Congressman Michael McCaul, representing Texas, said in a statement posted on X that he was “deeply concerned by reports that a US Army officer has been detained in Russia”.

“Putin has a long history of holding American citizens hostage,” he said of Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding: “A warning to all Americans — as the State Department has said, it is not safe to travel to Russia.”

Russian authorities have arrested several U.S. citizens in recent years. Critics accuse Moscow of using the detainees as bargaining chips to exchange for Russians jailed in the U.S.

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, has been imprisoned in Russia since 2018 on spying charges that the U.S. government and his family insist are a baseless pretext to keep him incarcerated. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was jailed in March 2023 on espionage charges, which the U.S., his family and employer all insist are baseless. He is awaiting trial.

The State Department said in December that Russia rejected a “significant” proposal for both men’s release. 

Eleanor Watson and David Martin contributed to this report.



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