Russia jails US soldier, dangles prisoner swap deal

A Russian court has handed a United States soldier a jail sentence as Moscow said it is awaiting Washington’s response to prisoner swap proposals.

The Pervomaisky District Court of Vladivostok sentenced US staff sergeant Gordon Black to three years and nine months in a penal colony on Wednesday for stealing $113 from his girlfriend and threatening to kill her, according to state-run TASS and Sputnik.

The sentencing adds to the list of US citizens jailed in Russia amid the deterioration in relations ushered in by the invasion of Ukraine. A senior official said on the same day that Moscow is waiting for Washington to respond to its latest prisoner swap proposals.

Russia is holding at least a dozen US citizens in jail, including corporate security executive Paul Whelan, musician Travis Leake – arrested last year on drug-related charges – teacher Marc Fogel – sentenced to 14 years in prison, also on drug charges – and dual national Ksenia Khavana.

On Tuesday, a court turned down an appeal by another twin passport holder Alsu Kurmasheva against the extension of her pre-trial detention. The Radio Free Europe journalist was arrested eight months ago and has been charged with spreading “false information” about the military.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is due to face trial behind closed doors on charges of espionage, which he has denied, on Tuesday.

President Vladimir Putin said in February that talks on a prisoner swap involving the journalist were under way, but the Kremlin has not given any details on the progress of the negotiations.

“The ball is in the court of the United States, we are waiting for them to respond to the ideas that were presented to them,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told state news agency TASS.



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