Russia holds two more Americans − including Army Staff Sgt. Gordon Black

Black’s mother told ABC News she warned her son about going to Russia and worried ‘he was being set up’ by a woman he’d met in South Korea.


  • ‘As far as we understand, this is a purely everyday crime,’ Russia’s interior ministry said of Staff Sgt. George Black’s arrest.

WASHINGTON − Russian authorities said Tuesday they had detained two U.S. nationals − including Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, an active duty U.S. soldier − in separate criminal cases on either side of the country.

Black, was arrested Monday on theft charges and ordered held by a court in Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East, U.S. and Russian officials said.

The servicemember made an unauthorized personal trip from South Korea, where he had been stationed, to Vladivostok, the U.S. Army said. Russian officials said he’d gone to meet a woman he’d met in South Korea.

Black’s mother, Melody Jones, told ABC News she warned her son about going to Russia. “I knew something was going to happen,” she told the network. “I felt like he was being set up by her.”

Radio Free Europe identified Black’s girlfriend as Vladivostok native Aleksandra Vashchuk, and grabbed clips from her Tik Tok account showing her and Black in South Korea together before the account was taken private on Tuesday.

in one video, Black appears to share Kremlin talking points, telling Vashchuk’s followers that NATO’s behavior was “pretty aggressive,” RFE reported. Another video shows Black in uniform, wearing a patch of the Eighth Army’s Wightman NCO Academy, as a woman identified as Vaschuk narrates in Russian.

The staff sergeant’s arrest had echoes of the case of troubled Army Pvt. Travis King, who caused an international incident in July 2023 by bolting across the border from South Korea into North Korea, where he was held prisoner for two and a half months.

But U.S. officials said they didn’t consider Black a deserter. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Black’s case had no political element and that there were no allegations of espionage.

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

Reporter’s notebook: Finland: Happiness, saunas, NATO and the Russian threat

Criminal cases against Americans in Russia have assumed diplomatic significance in recent years, including a drugs case against WNBA star Brittney Griner, freed last year in a prisoner swap, and espionage charges against Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, which he, his employer, and the U.S. government deny. Washington has officially designated Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a former Marine convicted of spying, as “wrongfully detained.

The Vladivostok court said Black would be detained at least until July 2, according to the RIA news agency. The U.S. Army said Black was an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who joined the military in 2008.

Staff sergeant flew to Russia without U.S. Army permission

Black was being “out-processed” from U.S. Forces Korea to Fort Cavazos, Texas, when, instead boarding a flight to the U.S., he traveled “through China to Vladivostok, Russia, for personal reasons,” Army spokesperson Cynthia Smith said in a statement.

“Black did not request official clearance and DoD did not authorize his travel to China and Russia,” Smith said, referring to the Defense Department. She said there was “no evidence Black intended to remain in Russia” when his time off ended.

More: Putin admits ‘radical Islamists’ were behind Moscow massacre, but still blames Ukraine

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow and the Eighth Army notified Black’s family of his arrest shortly after Russian officials contacted the embassy, Smith said.

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

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

Public nudity in Moscow

Separately, Moscow’s court service said on Tuesday that a court had remanded a U.S. 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.”

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said: “We are aware of reports of U.S. 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.”

Contributing: Reuters

Latest news
Related news