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Russia sentences U.S. man Robert Woodland to prison on drug charges


A Russian court has sentenced an American man to 12 and a half years in prison on drug charges, his lawyer told the Reuters news agency on Thursday. Robert Woodland, who’s believed to be a U.S.-Russian dual national who was living outside Moscow and working as a teacher, was detained in January and has been in custody ever since.

Russia’s state-run media said Woodland was found guilty of attempted trafficking of large quantities of illegal drugs and being part of an organized criminal group. Reuters quoted Woodland’s lawyer, Stanislav Kshevitsky, as saying he had pleaded partially guilty to the charges.

In a 2020 interview with Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, Woodland said he had decided to return to the country where he was born after living with a foster family in the U.S. for most of his life. He said that at the age of 26, he decided try to track down his biological mother. After eventually meeting her on a Russian TV show, he decided to move to Russia.

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Robert Woodland, who was interviewed by Russian media in 2020, is seen in a Facebook profile photo.

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Asked about Woodland, U.S. State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said during a regular briefing on Feb. 5 that, “due to privacy considerations, there is a limit to how much I can share, but the [Russian] Ministry of Internal Affairs notified us on January 9th of the detention of this U.S. citizen.”

Patel added a reminder of the U.S. government’s standing advisory, warning Americans against all travel to Russia.

Russia is holding several other U.S. nationals in its prisons, including Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who went on trial behind closed doors in Yekaterinburg on June 26, 15 months after his arrest in the Ural Mountains city on espionage charges that he, his employer and the U.S. government vehemently deny.

The State Department has declared him “wrongfully detained,” thereby committing the U.S. government to assertively seek his release.

Paul Whelan, an American corporate security executive, was arrested in Moscow for espionage in 2018 and is serving a 16-year sentence. The State Department has also deemed him wrongfully detained by Russia.

Evan Gershkovich, left, and Paul Whelan
Evan Gershkovich, left, and Paul Whelan are currently detained in Russia on espionage charges that the U.S. says are unfounded.

The Wall Street Journal; Sofia Sandurskaya/AP


On June 19, a court in the far eastern city of Vladivostok sentenced an American soldier who was arrested earlier this year to three years and nine months in prison on charges of stealing and threats of murder, according to Russian news reports. Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, 34, flew to Vladivostok, a Pacific port city, to see his girlfriend and was arrested after she accused him of stealing from her, according to U.S. officials and Russian authorities.

Last year, Alsu Kurmasheva, a reporter with dual American-Russian citizenship for the U.S. government-funded Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, was arrested for alleged violation of the law requiring so-called “foreign agents” to register with Russia’s government.

Another dual national, Los Angeles resident Ksenia Karelina, is on trial, also in Yekaterinburg, on treason charges for allegedly donating a relatively small sum of money to a U.S. charity that supplied arms and ammunition to Ukrainian’s military.

The U.S. government has repeatedly accused Russia of wrongfully detaining Americans to use as bargaining chips to swap for Russian nationals detained by the U.S., a practice it has called “hostage diplomacy.”



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