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Russian court sentences US soldier to nearly 4 years in penal colony, Russian media reports

by Dmytro Basmat June 19, 2024 7:38 AM 2 min read
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)
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Editor's Note: This is a developing story and is being updated.

A Russian court in Vladivostok has sentenced U.S. Staff Sergeant Gordon Black to three years and nine months in a Russian penal colony on charges of theft and uttering death threats, Russian state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti reported on June 19.

Black was arrested in May in the city of Vladivostok after he allegedly stole 10,000 rubles ($112) while travelling to visit a woman believed to be his girlfriend. Black was accused of threatening to kill the woman during a heated exchange, Russian state news agency TASS previously reported.

Black has denied charges that he uttered death threats but partially admitted to the alleged theft, stating that he returned the money to the victim the next day.

According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Black testified that the victim was severely intoxicated on the day of the incident, throwing punches at Black as he attempted to leave the apartment.

U.S. officials charge that Black, who reportedly met the women while on deployment in South Korea, travelled to Russia through China without informing his superiors.

Black's conviction comes amid riding tensions between Moscow and Washington as a number of U.S. citizens remain in Russian detention. Evan Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen and Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter who has been jailed in Russia for over a year, will stand trial in Yekaterinburg on charges of espionage in proceedings set to begin on June 26.

Russia formally accused Gershkovich of spying for the CIA and finalized his indictment on June 13, announcing that he would finally go to trial. Russian authorities have not publicly released any evidence to support the charges.

The U.S. has maintained that the charges against Gershkovich are politcally motivated and "baseless."

In another promiment case, a former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan was also arrested in Moscow on Dec. 28, 2018 and imprisoned on spying charges he denies. He maintains he was visiting Russia to attend a friend's wedding.

The United States has repeatedly warned that U.S. citizens should avoid travel to Russia and those currently in Russia "should consider departing Russia immediately."

Trial for US journalist Gershkovich jailed in Russia set to begin later in June
The trial is planned to occur behind closed doors.

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