US soldier detained in Russia was on unsanctioned trip to meet girlfriend: Reports

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Army Staff Sgt. Gordon Black is 34 years old.

A U.S. soldier detained in Russia last week was on an unsanctioned trip to visit his girlfriend at the time of his arrest, multiple media outlets reported Tuesday.

Army Staff Sgt. Gordon Black was arrested May 2 in Vladivostok, Russia, for alleged theft of personal property and is being held in pretrial detention, U.S. Army spokesperson Cynthia O. Smith said in a statement Tuesday.

Black, 34, was stationed at Camp Humphreys in South Korea until taking a permanent change of station (PCS) leave April 10 before traveling to Fort Cavazos, Texas. On his own accord, Black instead flew from Incheon, South Korea, through China to Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East for “personal reasons,” Smith said.

Black’s mother, Melody Jones, told ABC News’s “Good Morning America” her son traveled to Russia to visit his girlfriend.

“I told him I was really uncomfortable,” Jones told ABC News. “I had a bad feeling about him going, but he went anyway.”

Black did not request official clearance to travel to Russia and had not received authorization from the Defense Department to travel to Russia or through China, Smith said.

“There is no evidence Black intended to remain in Russia after his PCS leave period ended,” Smith wrote.

Black told his mother he was questioned by authorities at the airport for “nine hours,” per ABC News.

The Army said there were no further details available over what prompted the arrest, though four U.S. officials told NBC News that Black is accused of stealing, apparently from the woman he was visiting.

Reuters cited the Russian interior ministry saying a 32-year-old woman filed the complaint after the two had an argument. It said he was arrested in a local hotel, having bought a plane ticket to return home.

Jones said her son and his girlfriend met at a club in South Korea more than a year ago. The girlfriend was reportedly deported to Russia from South Korea after getting into a dispute with Black last fall, Jones added.

Smith said the Russia’s interior ministry informed the U.S. Embassy in Moscow of Black’s arrest on May 3. He will remain in detention at least until his next hearing, she added.

The Hill reached out to the Russian Embassy for further comment.

Black’s detention comes as Russia increases its arrests of Americans who travel to the country, with tensions persisting between the two nations in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The Kremlin maintains those it arrests broke the law, while the U.S. alleges Russia is targeting U.S. citizens to use as political leverage.

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