Russian Court Sentences US Soldier To Nearly Four Years Behind Bars For Theft, Murder Threats

(Photo by PAVEL KOROLYOV/AFP via Getty Images)

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Zineb Williams Contributor
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A Russian court sentenced an American soldier Wednesday to nearly four years behind bars after he was convicted for theft and making murder threats, The Associated Press reported.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, 34, was arrested by Russian authorities in Vladivostok after his girlfriend, Alexandra Vashchuk, accused him of stealing money and assaulting her in a “simple domestic dispute,” the AP reported. Black maintained that he was “partially guilty” of theft but “not guilty” of threatening to kill her, according to the Moscow Times, a non-state owned news outlet. (RELATED: WSJ Leaves Front Page Story Blank For Detained Reporter Evan Gershkovich)

The couple first met in October 2022 in South Korea, where the two allegedly got into a separate domestic dispute, resulting in Vashchuk leaving the country for Russia, according to U.S. officials cited by the AP. It is unclear if Vashchuk was required to leave the country, or did so voluntarily.

US Army soldier Gordon Black, who was detained on suspicion of theft, appears in court in the far eastern city of Vladivostok on June 6, 2024. (Photo by PAVEL KOROLYOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Black’s trip to Russia, which is currently under stringent U.S. sanctions over its war with Ukraine, wasn’t approved by the Department of Defense, the AP reported. The chances that Black would’ve received authorization for the Russia trip are highly unlikely.

In addition to the prison sentence, Black was ordered by a judge to pay $115 in damages, according to Russian state media outlets cited by the AP. Prosecutors had sought a lengthier prison sentence, clocking in at four years and eight months.

The soldier’s conviction follows several high-profile cases involving American citizens accused of crimes in Russia.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested in March 2023 by Russian authorities on accusations of spying on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency. He is set to stand trial on the charges, which are largely believed to be baseless and without warrant.

President Joe Biden has called the reporter’s detention “defenseless,” and has repeatedly demanded he be released.

Former Marine Paul Whelan was nabbed in Russia in 2018 on espionage charges and has been held in prison for over five years. Both Whelan and the U.S. government have characterized his detention for alleged espionage as unlawful and totally false.

Whelan has criticized the Biden administration for failing to secure his release, telling Biden to “man up” in an interview with Washington, D.C.-based WTOP News.

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