US Army sergeant arrested in Russia accused of theft

A US Army soldier stationed in South Korea has been detained in Russia, the US military says.

The Russian foreign ministry said the charges were not related to "politics or espionage", but to a "purely domestic crime".

Staff Sgt Gordon Black is accused of stealing personal property.

The 34-year-old was not on official travel when he was held on 2 May in the city of Vladivostok, in Russia's Far East.

Sgt Black had been in the process of changing duty stations from South Korea to Fort Cavazos in the US state of Texas, according to a statement from the US Army.

But instead of returning to the US, he travelled through China to Vladivostok for personal reasons, US Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said in a statement.

According to Russian media, he was visiting a woman with whom he had a romantic relationship.

The soldier's mother, Melody Jones, confirmed to CBS that he was in Russia visiting his girlfriend.

"Please do not torture him [or] hurt him," Melody Jones said when asked about her message to the Russians.

Sgt Black enlisted as an infantryman in 2008 and was deployed to Iraq in 2009 and Afghanistan in 2013. He was most recently assigned to the Eighth Army, US Forces Korea at Camp Humphreys in South Korea.

He did not request official clearance and the defence department did not authorise his travel to China or Russia, the US Army said. There is no evidence he intended to remain in Russia.

The Russian interior ministry informed the US embassy in Moscow on 3 May that Sgt Black had been arrested a day earlier for theft of personal property.

He is being held at a pre-trial detention facility until his next hearing.

"The Army notified his family and the US Department of State is providing appropriate consular support to the Soldier in Russia," the US Army said in a statement on Monday.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters the US is "aware of this case and other matters related to Russia".

At the White House briefing on Monday, Mr Kirby said he could not provide more details.

Russia is holding two other Americans. Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been detained since March 2023 on espionage charges.

Former US Marine Paul Whelan was accused of spying and sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020.

Both men maintain their innocence, and the US government says the charges against them are baseless.