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US citizen arrested in Russia on drug trafficking charges

by Nate Ostiller January 9, 2024 4:12 PM 2 min read
Robert Woodland Romanov, a U.S. citizen arrested on drug charges in Russia, in a photo posted on Oct. 22, 2020. (Facebook)
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Robert Woodland Romanov, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in Moscow on charges of attempted drug smuggling and remanded to two months of pre-trial detention, the Russian news outlet Interfax reported on Jan. 9, citing Moscow's Ostankino court.

An undisclosed number of U.S. citizens are held in Russian prisons. Brittney Griner, formerly a professional basketball player in Russia, was detained by border guards in February 2022 at a Moscow airport on drug charges and held for nearly 10 months until she was traded for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

A U.S. citizen named Robert Woodland Romanov was interviewed in the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda in 2020, where he described how he had been born in Russia and then given up for adoption to American parents while he was still young. Romanov grew up in the U.S. but returned to Russia as an adult, where he worked as an English teacher.

NBC, Reuters, and other news outlets said that Romanov was the same American arrested on Jan. 9.

Court documents said Romanov has dual U.S.-Russian citizenship. The charges he faces can carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Romanov made several posts on his Facebook profile commenting on Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine.

He wrote in September 2022, around the time the first wave of mobilization in Russia was announced, that "I have not recivied (sic) my (draft) letter yet. I am not in support of this war, but if my letter to arms comes, I will not turn away. I know this sounds like a stupid choice, but remember.... America had done the same back during the Vietnam War...."

The U.S. State Department has repeatedly warned U.S. citizens to leave the country immediately, saying that Americans are at high risk for "wrongful detention."

The U.S.'s "ability to provide routine or emergency services to U.S. citizens in Russia is severely limited," the government said.

Two journalists with U.S. citizenship, Evan Gershkovich and Alsu Kurmasheva, are currently being held in pre-trial detention in Russia on charges widely thought to be spurious in the West.

Russian court reaffirms decision to keep jailed US journalist in pre-trial detention
The Supreme Court of the Russian region of Tatarstan ruled on Dec. 12 to confirm the decision of a lower court to keep Alsu Kurmasheva, a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalist with dual U.S. and Russian citizenship in pre-trial detention.

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