US soldier arrested in Russia over ‘stealing from his girlfriend’

US troops in South Korea
US troops in South Korea

An American soldier stationed in South Korea has been detained in Russia after visiting his girlfriend, the US military has confirmed.

US officials said staff Sgt Gordon Black, 34, was in the process of returning home to Fort Cavazos in Texas when he made a detour to the Russian port city of Vladivostok to see a woman he was in a long-term relationship with. He has been arrested on charges of stealing from her.

His detention will further strain relations between the US and Russia, which have already fallen to Cold War lows since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Cynthia Smith, a spokesperson for the US army, said it was “providing appropriate consular support” to Sgt Black’s family. He is reported to be married.

According to the AP, citing officials, the Russian woman had previously lived in South Korea but left last autumn after she and Sgt Black had an altercation.

Officials also said that Sgt Black, an infantry soldier, did not tell his unit that he was going to use his leave to travel to Vladivostok, which is a major military and commercial Pacific port.

The diplomatic headache comes less than a year after Travis King, another American soldier based in South Korea, unexpectedly bolted across the heavily fortified border into North Korea. He was later expelled by Pyongyang and has been charged with desertion.

The US State Department strongly advises its citizens not to travel to Russia, where several Americans have been jailed, including corporate security executive Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

The US government has designated both as wrongfully detained and has been trying to negotiate for their release.

Washington has previously accused Moscow of using American citizens as bargaining chips.

“Putin has a long history of holding American citizens hostage. A warning to all Americans — as the State Department has said, it is not safe to travel to Russia,” said Republican Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.