Russia sentences US citizen to 12 years in penal colony for drug trafficking

A US citizen who was detained in Moscow on drug-related charges in January has been sentenced to 12 years and six months in a maximum-security penal colony, according to a court statement released Thursday.

Robert Woodland was found guilty of attempted trafficking of large amounts of illegal drugs as part of an organized group, the Ostankino District Court of Moscow said.

Woodland’s lawyers told reporters after the verdict was delivered that they would appeal the ruling as Woodland’s guilt had not been proven, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Woodland has been suffering from unspecified mental health issues, his lawyer Stanislav Kshevitsky told AP without providing any details. He added that the court didn’t take those issues into account. CNN is reaching out to his lawyers for comment.

Moscow’s prosecutor’s office said that on January 3, Woodland was caught trying to hide a “large batch” of mephedrone after he had transported the synthetic stimulant to an apartment in Moscow. Prosecutors said he had used the apartment to bag the drugs in 49 smaller packages for further illegal sale.

Woodland is a US citizen of Russian origin who was adopted by US scientists and he returned to Russia 27 years later. He was born on December 7, 1991, and his real name is Roman Romanov. He comes from the Perm Krai region, far from Moscow and just West of the Ural mountains.

The pro-Kremlin tabloid Komosomolskaya Pravda reported in 2020 that Woodland was two years old when he was brought to the US.

Woodland is one of at least a dozen US citizens and dual nationals currently being detained in Russia, including Evan Gershkovich, the first American journalist to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the Cold War. Gershkovich’s espionage trial began in late June, nearly 15 months after he was first detained.

Western officials and analysts have accused Russia of using jailed Americans as political pawns. Discussing the case of Ksenia Karelina, a US-Russian dual citizen also on trial in Yekaterinburg after being accused of donating $51 to a Ukrainian charity, Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov told CNN that Russia aims “to build up a bank of hostages with American passports,” which Moscow can use “as leverage” in any negotiations with Washington.

Paul Whelan, an American declared wrongfully detained by the US State Department and currently serving a 16-year prison sentence on espionage charges, told CNN Thursday in a phone call from his remote prison camp in Mordovia that US President Joe Biden should handle his case as “he would do if his own son were being held hostage.”

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