Russia detains two US nationals, including a serving soldier

Russian authorities said on Tuesday they had detained two US nationals, including a serving US soldier, in separate criminal cases.

The soldier, detained on Monday on charges of criminal misconduct, was arrested on theft charges by a court in Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East, the regional office of the Interior Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the case had no political element and there were no allegations of espionage.

“As far as we understand, this is a purely everyday crime”, the TASS state media agency cited the ministry’s Vladivostok branch as saying.

Criminal cases against Americans in Russia have assumed diplomatic significance in recent years, including a drugs case against basketball star Brittney Griner freed last year in a prisoner swap, and an espionage case against Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, which he and his employer deny.

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The court identified the soldier as Gordon Black and said he would be detained at least until July 2, according to RIA news agency. The US Army, which said on Monday it had been informed about the detention, has not identified the soldier. A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the soldier had been based in South Korea.

The Russian interior ministry in Vladivostok said a 32-year-old woman had filed a complaint against the 34-year-old suspect.

The two had met in South Korea. The American had come to Vladivostok to visit her, the two had an argument, and she later filed a police report accusing him of stealing money, it said. He was arrested in a local hotel, having bought a plane ticket to return home.

Separately, Moscow’s court service said on Tuesday that a court had remanded a US citizen whom it named as William Russell Nycum in custody for 10 days for “petty hooliganism”

It said he had been found naked outside after drinking alcohol in an incident it said “expressed obvious disrespect to society, citizens and public order”.

When contacted by Reuters on Tuesday about the detention of the two US nationals, a spokesperson for the US embassy in Moscow said:

“We are aware of reports of US citizens being arrested inside of Russia…Consular officers from the embassy always seek to aid citizens with appropriate assistance but due to privacy concerns we aren’t able to comment further”. ($1 = 91.0730 roubles)

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