U.S. soldier detained in Russia on theft charges

By Esther Muhozi
On 7 May 2024 at 10:51

A United States (U.S.) soldier has been detained in Russia under accusations of theft, a situation complicated by revelations that he may have been visiting a romantic partner rather than returning directly home from his deployment.

Staff Sergeant Gordon Black, who had been stationed at a U.S. military base in South Korea, was arrested in Vladivostok, a major Pacific port city close to Russia’s borders with China and North Korea.

According to NBC News, rather than returning to his base at Fort Cavazos, Texas, Black traveled approximately 400 miles northeast of South Korea to Russia. U.S. officials have stated that Black undertook this travel without authorization from Army superiors and was not on official duty at the time of his visit.

The detour, suggest U.S. officials, was made so Black could meet a woman with whom he had reportedly developed a romantic relationship while they were both in South Korea two years prior. The relationship was implied by Black’s mother, Melody Jones, during her plea for her son’s humane treatment by Russian authorities. "Please do not torture him or hurt him," Jones implored.

It remains unclear, however, whether the woman Black visited is the same individual from whom he is accused of stealing. Details of the allegations have not been fully disclosed.

Following Black’s detention, the Russian Federation informed the U.S. Department of State, adhering to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. "The Army notified his family and the U.S. Department of State is providing appropriate consular support to the soldier," stated a U.S. official.

The incident has drawn significant attention from U.S. lawmakers, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, who expressed deep concern over Black’s situation.

Highlighting the risks associated with travel to Russia, McCaul echoed State Department warnings about the potential dangers: "Putin has a long history of holding American citizens hostage," he remarked. "A warning to all Americans – as the State Department has said, it is not safe to travel to Russia."

The U.S. government continues to caution its citizens against traveling to Russia, noting a disturbing pattern of Americans being detained, sometimes indefinitely, often used as leverage in diplomatic negotiations.