Russian court sentences US soldier to 3 years in prison for theft and making death threats

Gordon Black arrives in court in Vladivostok, 19 June 2024. Photo:  Novosti Primorya

Gordon Black arrives in court in Vladivostok, 19 June 2024. Photo: Novosti Primorya

A court in the city of Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East has found US soldier Gordon Black guilty of theft and making death threats and sentenced him to three years and nine months in prison, state-affiliated news agency Interfax reported on Wednesday.

Black, a US Army staff sergeant stationed in South Korea, travelled to Russia to visit his Russian girlfriend Alexandra Vashchuk without first seeking permission from his superiors.

The prosecution alleged that in early May, Black had fought with Vashchuk, grabbed her by the neck, and taken 10,000 rubles (€112) from her purse, which he then spent “on his own needs”, including paying for the hotel room where he was subsequently detained.

Black denied the death threats, but partially accepted the theft charge, while denying that he had any criminal intent. Black said that on the day of the fight, Vashchuk had been drunk and aggressive, at one point even throwing a plate at him which hit him in the face.

According to Black, he grabbed Vashchuk by the neck, then let her go. He said that her subsequent attempts to prevent him from leaving led to the fight, in which he admits hitting her and pushing her twice. He said that he had taken the money to pay for a hotel and that he returned the money the following day.

Black is the latest of the many US citizens detained in Russia on questionable grounds, and joins the likes of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, former marine Paul Whelan, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Alsu Kurmasheva.

US officials have accused Russia of using detained American citizens as “pawns to achieve political ends”.

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