US Army says American soldier has been arrested in Russia

Sergeant reportedly charged for criminal misconduct, adding to growing list of Americans detained

The US embassy building in Moscow. AFP
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A US soldier has been detained in Russia on charges of criminal misconduct, the US Army said on Monday, in Moscow's latest high-profile detention of an American.

The soldier, who was not identified, was detained by Russian authorities in Vladivostok on May 2, US Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith told Bloomberg News, without specifying the nature of the charges.

“Given the sensitivity of this matter we are unable to provide additional details at this time,” Ms Smith said.

The Army said Moscow notified the US State Department of the soldier's criminal detention in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

The State Department has notified the soldier’s family and is offering consular support, Ms Smith said.

A US official told Reuters that the soldier had been based in South Korea, and another US official said the soldier was accused of stealing from a woman.

The arrest was first reported by NBC News.

The Russian daily Izvestia, quoting an unidentified source, said the Army sergeant met a woman from Russia's far-eastern port of Vladivostok on the internet.

It said the couple lived together for a time. But he beat her and stole 200,000 roubles ($2,200) from her, the report said.

It was unclear on Monday if the soldier is considered absent without leave.

The arrest comes less than a year after American soldier Travis King sprinted into North Korea across the heavily fortified border between the Koreas.

North Korea later announced that it would expel Mr King, who was returned to the US. He was eventually charged with desertion.

President Joe Biden's administration has been lobbying Moscow to release several Americans, including The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

Gershkovich became the first US journalist arrested on spying charges in Russia since the Cold War when he was detained by the Federal Security Service (FSB) on March 29 last year.

He, his newspaper and the US government all deny he is a spy.

Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, an American convicted of spying against Russia and sentenced to 16 years in 2020, have both been designated by the US State Department as “wrongfully detained”.

This means Washington considers the charges against them to be fake and is committed to working for their release.

Asked about the soldier's detention, a US State Department representative confirmed only that “a US citizen has been detained in Russia”.

“We reiterate our strong warnings about the danger posed to US citizens inside the Russian Federation," the representative said.

"US citizens residing or travelling in Russia should depart immediately, as stated in our Travel Advisory for Russia.

“Due to privacy and other considerations we have no further details to provide at this time.”

Updated: May 07, 2024, 12:21 AM