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Mother of American soldier detained in Russia while visiting girlfriend believes he was ‘set up’

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May 7, 2024

The mother of a U.S. soldier detained in Russia, accused of stealing from his girlfriend, believes he was “set up.”

The detainment of Army Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, 34, on May 2 in the Russian Pacific port city of Vladivostok was announced by U.S. officials on Monday. Black’s mother told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday that her son had met the Russian woman when she was tending bar near his Army base in South Korea, and she was later deported back to Russia. 

“I knew something was going to happen,” Melody Jones told “GMA.” “I felt like he was being set up by her.”

Jones described her son’s relationship with the Russian woman as “volatile,” and even suspected the longtime girlfriend might be a spy. She said she told her son not to travel to Russia when he was supposed to be returning home to the U.S. while on leave.  

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“Did she cause the argument? Did she start the fight to get him arrested?” Jones asked. The charges Black faces involve beating a woman and stealing money from her, according to “GMA,” which cited Russian television reports. 

Black deployed to Iraq from Oct. 2009 through Sept. 2010, and to Afghanistan from June 2013 until March 2014, Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said. 

“On April 10, Black out-processed from Eighth Army, and signed out on Permanent Change of Station leave enroute to Fort Cavazos, Texas. Instead of returning to the continental United States, Black flew from Incheon, Republic of Korea through China to Vladivostok, Russia, for personal reasons,” Smith said in a statement.

Smith said that Black, an infantry soldier, did not request official clearance and did not receive authorization to go to those countries. 

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

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Black will remain in a Russian pre-trial detention facility at least until his next hearing – reportedly set for early July – if not longer.

The State Department strongly advises U.S. citizens not to go to Russia and advises those already there to leave.

Several other Americans, along with Black, remain detained in Russia.  

William Nycum, an English instructor in Russia on a six-month tourist visa, was found in a Moscow children’s library Friday after breaking a window to gain entry, the Associated Press reported. Russian newspaper Izvestia says there is CCTV footage capturing Nycum partially naked breaking into the children’s library, according to British publication The Daily Mirror. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail.

Corporate security executive Paul Whelan, who was convicted of espionage, and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in March 2023 on espionage charges, are two Americans held by Russia. The U.S. government has designated both 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.

FOX News’ Liz Friden and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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