US soldier sentenced to nearly four years in Russia’s penal colony: Reports

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A US soldier detained in the Russian city of Vladivostok on charges of theft and threats to kill his girlfriend was found guilty on Wednesday and sentenced to three years and nine months in a Russian penal colony, Russian agencies reported.

Gordon Black, a 34-year-old US staff sergeant who was detained on May 2 in Vladivostok in Russia’s far east, pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of threatening to kill his girlfriend but admitted he was “partially” guilty of stealing from her.

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Black’s defense lawyer will appeal the verdict, said RIA agency, which reported the judge handing down the sentence of “imprisonment of three years and nine months” for both charges.

The agency reported that prosecutors had asked for a prison sentence of four years and eight months, while the defense asked for Black to be acquitted of all charges.

Black “partially” acknowledged his guilt on the charge of stealing 10,000 roubles ($113) from his girlfriend Alexandra Vashchuk’s purse but said that “there was no intent,” RIA reported.

The pair had met in South Korea, where Black was stationed. The Pentagon has said that he broke army rules by travelling to Russia without authorization, having passed through China.

Black has a wife and child in Texas. His wife Megan told Reuters last month that he and Vashchuk had a tempestuous relationship.

Black’s mother, Melody Jones, told Reuters he had followed his girlfriend to Russia even though they “fought like cats and dogs”.

Russia is holding at least a dozen American citizens in jail, including Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who will go on trial behind closed door on charges of espionage next week. Gershkovich has denied the charges of collecting secrets for the US CIA.

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