US soldier tells Russian court he did not threaten to kill his girlfriend

U.S. soldier Gordon Black pleaded not guilty in a Russian court on Monday to charges of threatening to kill his girlfriend but admitted he was “partially” guilty of stealing from her, Russian state media said.

Black, arrested last month in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, is one of at least a dozen Americans currently held in Russia on criminal charges, at a time of acute tension between Moscow and Washington over the war in Ukraine.

RIA news agency said the soldier, speaking through an interpreter, “partially” acknowledged his guilt on the charge of stealing 10,000 rubles ($113) from his girlfriend Alexandra Vashchuk’s purse but said that “there was no intent.”

On the other charge, Black denies the accusation that he grabbed Vashchuk by the neck during a quarrel, causing her to fear for her life.

RIA said Vashchuk testified that Black needed psychiatric help, not heavy punishment, and that she was not willing to reconcile with him because she had not received compensation.

Another state news agency, TASS, quoted Vashchuk as saying that Black had been aggressive to her more than once.

The pair had met in South Korea, where Black was stationed. The Pentagon has said that he broke army rules by traveling to Russia without authorization, having passed through China.

Black has a wife and child in Texas. His wife, Megan, told Reuters last month that he and Vashchuk had a tempestuous relationship and that once, during a video call, she and her daughter saw Vashchuk pull a knife on Black and leave him with a bloodied face.

Black’s mother, Melody Jones, told Reuters he had followed his girlfriend to Russia even though they “fought like cats and dogs.”

Regarding the theft charge, TASS quoted Black as saying in court that he had transferred a total of over $500 to Vashchuk via an acquaintance before he was arrested – much more than the amount he was alleged to have stolen.

TASS quoted Vashchuk as saying he had also contributed most of the cost of an apartment where they had been staying. Black said he had transferred about 300,000 rubles to her before he arrived in Vladivostok from South Korea.

Both sides will present arguments in court at the next session on June 19, where Black will have a chance to make a concluding statement.

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