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The trial of an American soldier who was arrested earlier this year in Russia on theft charges has officially begun.

According to prosecutors, Staff Sgt. Gordon Black traveled to Vladivostok to visit his girlfriend but was arrested after she accused him of theft. If convicted, he faces a potential five-year prison sentence. According to both US officials and Russian authorities, Black has chosen to testify in court and is cooperating with the local police.


Black’s girlfriend, Alexandra Vashchuk, described the incident as a domestic dispute in which Black allegedly became aggressive and took money from her wallet without permission. US officials noted that Black, who is married, met Vashchuk while stationed in South Korea, where she had lived before returning to Russia following their altercation. The nature of her departure from South Korea remains unclear.

The US Army has also disclosed that Black did not receive the necessary clearance for his trip to Russia, violating Pentagon policies requiring service members to seek approval for international travel. Instead of returning to Fort Cavazos, Texas, from his station in South Korea, Black diverted his journey, flying from Incheon through China to Vladivostok.

This incident adds to the already strained US-Russia relations, exacerbated by the ongoing war in Ukraine. Russia currently has detained seven Americans, including corporate security executive Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, both of whom the US government considers wrongfully detained. Efforts are still ongoing to secure their release. Additional detainees in Russia include musician Travis Leake, teacher Marc Fogel, and dual nationals Alsu Kurmasheva and Ksenia Khavana.


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