American soldier arrested in Russia, accused of stealing, US officials say

WASHINGTON — An American soldier has been arrested in Russia and accused of stealing, according to two U.S. officials. 

The soldier, who is not being identified, was stationed in South Korea and was in the process of returning home to the United States. Instead, officials said he traveled to Russia. 

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel details. 

Cynthia Smith, Army spokesperson, confirmed that a soldier was detained Thursday in Vladivostok, a major military and commercial Pacific port, on charges of criminal misconduct. She said Russia notified the U.S. and the Army told the soldier’s family. 

“The U.S. Department of State is providing appropriate consular support to the soldier in Russia,” Smith said. 

It was unclear Monday if the soldier is considered absent without leave, or AWOL. 

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 King, who was returned to the U.S. He was eventually charged with desertion. 

Russia is known to be holding a number of Americans in its jails, including corporate security executive Paul Whelan and The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. The U.S. government has designated both as wrongfully detained and has been trying to negotiate for 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 soldier’s arrest in Russia was first reported by NBC News.