U.S. soldier is detained in Russia, officials confirm

A U.S. Army sergeant stationed in Korea has been detained in Russia, accused of stealing from a woman, two Pentagon officials said Monday. 

Staff Sgt. Gordon D. Black. was arrested on May 2 in Vladivostock. It is unclear how he got there but he was in the process of changing duty stations from Korea back to Fort Cavazos (Ft. Hood) in the U.S. He was not there on official travel.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the U.S. is “aware of this case and other matters related to Russia,” but he 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.

The U.S. has long been trying to secure the release of two other Americans who it considers to be wrongfully detained in Russia.

Paul Whelan, a former Marine, has been imprisoned in Russia since 2018 on espionage, which the U.S. and his family have said are sham charges. 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 their release.

The U.S. has warned Americans for months not to travel to Russia and had urged U.S. citizens living there to depart immediately. An updated travel advisory in September said Americans traveling to the country could be singled out “for detention by Russian government security officials” and the U.S. Embassy had “limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia.” 

“When a U.S. citizen is detained abroad, consular officers seek to aid him or her with all appropriate assistance. We take seriously our commitment to assist U.S. citizens abroad and provide all appropriate assistance,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement Monday that confirmed a U.S. citizen had been detained in Russia. 

The spokesperson reiterated that U.S. citizens in Russia or traveling to the country should leave immediately. 

“We reiterate our strong warnings about the danger posed to U.S. citizens inside the Russian Federation,” the spokesperson said. 

Camilla Schick and Arden Farhi contributed to this report.

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