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U.S. Soldier Arrested in Russia Broke Army Regs, Went Via China to Visit Girlfriend, Officials Say

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“Everything is being investigated,” official told Soldier of Fortune

Gordon Black, an American soldier who was arrested in Russia, went there to see a woman and violated Army rules in order to visit her, a U.S. official told Soldier of Fortune. The official echoed what Black’s family has said in the media. The official declined to speculate on whether the episode was part of a honeytrap, but noted that “everything is being investigated.”

The Pentagon has said that Black violated Army rules by traveling to the Far Eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, and he had gone there via China. 

American authorities confirmed that Black had been arrested in Russia and accused of stealing from a woman after traveling from South Korea — where he had been assigned but was due to return to Texas — without informing his superiors.

“Instead of returning to the continental United States, Black flew from Incheon, Republic of Korea through China to Vladivostok, Russia, for personal reasons,” the Army said in a statement.

More details emerged this week via Radio Free Liberty in the report, below, from Carl Schreck.

Glimpses of the life of a U.S. soldier arrested in Russia on theft charges were visible in multiple TikTok videos posted by a Russian woman who identified the American serviceman as her “husband.”

The alleged girlfriend, Aleksa Viktorovna

A court spokeswoman in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok said on May 7 that U.S. Staff Sergeant Gordon Black was arrested five days earlier on charges of “theft causing significant damage to a citizen.”

The U.S. Army has confirmed that Russia arrested an American soldier on May 2 but did not publicly identify him.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, cited several unidentified U.S. officials as saying that Black had been charged with stealing from his longtime girlfriend, with whom he previously had a relationship while he was stationed in South Korea.

Zolotoy Bridge in Vladivostok, Russia

RFE/RL found a TikTok account of Black’s romantic partner, Vladivostok native Aleksandra Vashchuk, who posted numerous videos of the couple together in South Korea, including at least one showing Black in his U.S. Army fatigues.

Among the hundreds of often profanity-laced TikTok videos posted by Vashchuk, 31, are several in which she refers to Black as her “husband” and affectionately as “pindos,” a Russian slang word for Americans that roughly translates to “Yankee punk.”

Most of the videos of the couple together in 2022 and 2023 appear to have been shot in South Korea, where Vashchuk says on TikTok that she had lived for more than five years.

Black had been stationed in South Korea and had been set to return to Texas but instead traveled to Russia, according to U.S. officials. His detention is the latest in a string of arrests of U.S. citizens in Russia that are widely seen as a Kremlin attempt to build a reserve of bargaining chips for prisoner swaps with the West.

These include RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva and The Wall Street Journal’s Evan Gershkovich, whom Russia has arrested on charges that they and their employers reject as politically motivated.

In Uniform

RFE/RL was unable to confirm if Vashchuk is the woman Black is accused of stealing from. Calls to a phone associated with Vashchuk went unanswered on May 7.

In one of the videos posted to Vashchuk’s TikTok account, which she closed to the public on May 7, Black is seen in his U.S. military fatigues with his name clearly visible on his uniform.

In one video, Vashchuk asks Black to comment on U.S.-Russian relations for her followers. He echoes several talking points frequently used by the Kremlin to justify the February 2022 invasion, calling NATO “pretty aggressive.”

“I understand Russia’s position, obviously. They want to defend their country,” Black says in the video before Vashchuk interjects and says former U.S. President Donald Trump “is better” than current U.S. President Joe Biden.

In more lighthearted videos, Vashchuk and Black can be seen partying together at bars and discussing the cult Russian movies Brother and Brother 2, with Black saying he fell asleep during the first film, which stars the late Russian movie star Sergei Bodrov.

In The Club

Black speaks a handful of Russian phrases in several videos, including the Russian phrase for “f**k you” after being prompted by Vashchuk.

In one video, Vashchuk films near Camp Humphreys, the U.S. Army installation around 60 kilometers south of Seoul.

ABC News cited Black’s mother, Melody Jones, as saying that her son had traveled to Russia to visit his girlfriend.

“Please do not torture him [or] hurt him,” Jones said when asked if she had a message for Russia.

Unidentified U.S. officials were cited by the Associated Press as saying that Black and his Russian girlfriend appear to have gotten into a domestic dispute sometime last year, after which she returned to Russia from South Korea.

The Associated Press also cited the officials as saying that Black did not inform his unit that he was traveling to Russia while he was essentially on leave during his move back to the United States — and that he had not received authorization to travel there.

One photograph of Black and Vaschuk circulated by Russian state media is a selfie that the U.S. soldier took as the couple sat in a restaurant.

In the spring of 2023, Vashchuk posted that same photograph on her Facebook page, which she closed to the public on May 7, but with Black photoshopped completely out of the image.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Sergei Dobrynin, Mark Krutov, and Maja Zivanovic

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