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Russia sentences American soldier Gordon Black to penal servitude

Russia sentences American soldier Gordon Black to penal servitude
Russia sentences American soldier Gordon Black to penal servitude

 


A Russian court on Wednesday sentenced a US soldier to three years and nine months in prison after finding him guilty of theft and threatening to kill his Russian girlfriend, state media reported.

Prosecutors said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, 34, stole 10,000 rubles ($120) from his girlfriend Alexandra Vashchuk and grabbed her by the neck, which she considered a threat to her life, Interfax reported. The sentencing took place at the Vladivostoks Pervomaisky District Court in Russia's far east.

Black met Vashchuk in South Korea, where he was stationed until April, and began a romantic relationship with her. After returning to Russia without him, he followed him there without informing his commanders or obtaining authorization.

In May, Russian authorities arrested and detained him for criminal misconduct. According to Interfax, he was arrested after a fight with Vashchuk in the apartment they shared, during which he grabbed her by the neck and took money from her purse.

Black claimed she behaved aggressively towards him after drinking half a bottle of vodka and started hitting him, the news agency reported.

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Judge Yelena Stepankova said in court Wednesday that Black threatened to kill Vashchuk and committed theft, and ordered him to repay the money.

Black pleaded not guilty this week to the death threat but admitted stealing the money, arguing that the theft was not premeditated but was due to the need to pay for a hotel, state media reported.

The State Department is warning Americans against traveling to Russia, and the Pentagon has banned military personnel from traveling to the country without authorization. Neither the Defense Department, State Department nor the U.S. Embassy in Moscow immediately responded to a request for comment Wednesday morning.

A number of Americans are being held in Russian prisons, including former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich, both accused of espionage. The U.S. government said the two men were wrongfully detained, a designation that commits the government to working for their release.

The detentions added even more tension to tensions between Washington and Moscow, which have been worsened by Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Black is married in the United States but is divorcing, family members told The Post in May. They said he was supposed to be on leave and returning to Fort Cavazos in Texas, but went to Russia to see Vashchuk instead.

Black enlisted in the Army as an infantryman in 2008 and was recently assigned to the 8th Army at Camp Humphreys in South Korea, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters in May.

He plans to appeal the verdict, his lawyers said.

Vashchuk did not appear in court on Wednesday, saying it was too difficult to watch Black and remember the events that happened, Interfax reported.

Robyn Dixon contributed to this report.

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2/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/06/19/gordon-black-russia-penal-colony/

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