U.S. soldier convicted of theft in Russia is sentenced to nearly 4 years in prison

A man sits in a glass cage in court
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gordon Black sits in a glass cage in a courtroom in Vladivostok, Russia, on Wednesday.
(Associated Press)
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A court in Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok on Wednesday convicted a visiting American soldier of stealing and making threats of murder, and it sentenced him to three years and nine months in prison.

Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, 34, flew to the Pacific port city to see his girlfriend and was arrested last month after she accused him of stealing from her, according to U.S. officials and Russian authorities.

Russia’s state news agencies Tass and RIA Novosti reported that the judge in Pervomaisky District Court in Vladivostok also ordered Black to pay about $115 in damages. Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of four years and eight months in prison.


Black’s case occurs amid tensions over Russia’s arrests of American journalists and other U.S. nationals as the fighting in Ukraine continues.

A court in Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok has begun the trial of an American soldier arrested earlier this year on charges of stealing.

June 6, 2024

Russia has jailed a number of Americans, including corporate security executive Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

The U.S. government has designated both men as wrongfully detained and has been trying to negotiate their release.

Others detained include Travis Leake, a musician who had been living in Russia for years and was arrested last year on drug-related charges; Marc Fogel, a teacher in Moscow who was sentenced to 14 years in prison, also on drug charges; and dual nationals Alsu Kurmasheva and Ksenia Khavana.

The U.S. State Department strongly advises American citizens not to travel to Russia.

Black was on leave and in the process of returning to his home base at Ft. Cavazos, Texas, from South Korea, where he had been stationed at Camp Humphreys.

Staff Sgt. Gordon Black was stationed in South Korea and was in the process of returning home to Ft. Cavazos, Texas, but instead traveled to Russia.

May 6, 2024

Cynthia Smith, an Army spokesperson, said Black signed out for his move back home and, “instead of returning to the continental United States, Black flew from Incheon, Republic of Korea, through China to Vladivostok, Russia, for personal reasons.”


Under Pentagon policy, servicemembers must get clearance for any international travel from a security manager or commander.

The Army said last month that Black hadn’t sought such travel clearance and it wasn’t authorized by the Defense Department. Given the hostilities in Ukraine and threats to the U.S. and its military, it is extremely unlikely he would have been granted approval.

Black’s girlfriend, Alexandra Vashchuk, told reporters this month that he was arrested after “a simple domestic dispute,” during which Black “became aggressive and attacked” her.

A U.S. citizen arrested on drug charges in Moscow amid soaring Russia-U.S. tensions has appeared in court and had his case adjourned until mid-May.

April 25, 2024

“He then stole money from my wallet and I didn’t give him permission to do it,” Vashchuk said.

On Wednesday, she told Russian news outlet that she considers the sentence “quite humane” and described Black as “violent and unable to control himself.”

U.S. officials have said that Black, who is married, met Vashchuk in South Korea.

According to U.S. officials, she had lived in South Korea, and last fall she and Black got into a domestic dispute or altercation. After that, she left South Korea. It isn’t clear if she was forced to leave or what, if any, role South Korean authorities had in the matter.