US soldier sentenced to nearly four years in Russian penal colony, state media reports

Damond Isiaka
3 Min Read


CNN
 — 

A Russian court on Wednesday sentenced a US soldier to three years and nine months in a penal colony on charges of theft and threatening murder, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Staff Sgt. Gordon Black was arrested in May on charges of theft in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, where he had traveled to visit a woman, believed to be his girlfriend. He was accused of stealing 10,000 rubles (roughly $112) from her when he visited Russia in April after meeting her in South Korea, state news agency TASS previously reported.

Black was also accused of assaulting the woman during a quarrel.

The US soldier did not admit to charges of threatening to kill the woman, but partially admitted guilt to theft charges, RIA Novosti previously reported.

Black will appeal the sentence handed down by the court in Vladivostok, his lawyer said Wednesday, according to TASS.

Speaking to the Pervomaisky District Court on Monday, Black said he took the money from the woman’s purse, but the next day transferred $125 to her. He said he spent the money on food and three nights in a hotel, according to RIA.

He also said the woman was to collect a deposit of 10,000 rubles from the landlord after the end of the lease of the apartment for which he was paying, RIA said.

The woman also spoke in court on Monday, saying she was not yet ready to reconcile with Black since the damage had not yet been compensated.

Black’s sentencing comes against the backdrop of heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rages on. A number of Americans are being held in Russia, including two who have been declared as wrongfully detained by the US State Department – former Marine Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

Gershkovich, 32, will stand trial behind closed doors in the city of Yekaterinburg from June 26, TASS reported Monday, citing the court’s press service.

The journalist has been imprisoned since he was arrested while on a reporting trip in March last year by the FSB, Russia’s federal security service, which accused him of trying to obtain state secrets. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Gershkovich, the US government and the Wall Street Journal have vehemently denied the charges against him.

The White House has previously alleged the Kremlin is using Gershkovich, the first American reporter detained in Russia on allegations of spying since the Cold War, as a geopolitical hostage.

The US government has repeatedly warned American citizens not to travel to Russia.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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