US soldier jailed in Russia was pursuing girlfriend

US soldier jailed in Russia was pursuing girlfriend

A US Army sergeant who was arrested in Russia last week was going through a divorce at the time he travelled without authorisation to follow a new girlfriend to Russia, where the woman later accused him of theft, leading to his arrest.

The revelation, based on comments from Gordon Black’s family to the Washington Post, helps fill in the details of the evolving international incident.

Mr Black, 34, was supposed to be on leave from the Army and returning to Fort Cavazos, in Texas, but instead travelled to the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok last month to follow a woman named Alexandra Vashchuk.

According to Radio Free Europe reporter Mark Krutov, who tracked the couple’s relationship using social media, the pair appear to have met in South Korea, where Mr Black was stationed.

On TikTok, Ms Vashchuck had referred to Mr Black affectionately as her “husband” and her pindos, a slur for American.

Later videos appear to show Mr Black speaking about political topics like Joe Biden and Russian-American relations.

Mr Black then allegedly travelled to Russia without notifying his military supervisors or Ms Vashchuck.

“I came home, and there was this pindos,” she says in one social media video. “That’s funny. Who are you? Who are you, man?”

Once the pair were in Russia, Ms Vashchuck then reported the AWOL Army sergeant for allegedly beating her and stealing around $2,000 from her, according to Russian media.

US officials say they’re aware of the case and offering all possible assistance.

“The Army notified his family and the U.S. Department of State is providing appropriate consular support to the Soldier in Russia. Given the sensitivity of this matter, we are unable to provide additional details at this time,” the US embassy in Russia told The Independent.

“We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas,” a State Department spokesperson added. “When a U.S. citizen is detained abroad, consular officers seek to aid him or her with all appropriate assistance.

A number of Americans have been arrested in Russia in recent years, on what US officials call exaggerated charges meant to use American citizens as bargaining chips.

WNBA star Brittney Griner was held in a Russian prison on drug charges for nearly a year in 2022, while Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich remains incarcerated in the country, on espionage charges he, his employ, and the US government claim are unfounded.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has claimed Mr Black’s arrest has nothing to do with politics, according to the TASS state news agency.

“This case has no relation to politics or espionage. As far as we understand, a household crime [is suspected] in this case. That is why the Russian Foreign Ministry’s mission in Vladivostok is not following the case of the US citizen closely,” the mission said.

Martha McHardy contributed reporting to this story.