Jan 9, 2024 - World

U.S. national detained in Russia on drug charges

The national flag of the Russian Federation. Photo: Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Russian authorities said on Tuesday that a U.S. national had been arrested on drug charges, making him the latest American to be detained in the country, AP reports.

Why it matters: Since the start of Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. Department of State has repeatedly warned Americans to leave Russia and refrain from visiting the country over fears that the Russian government is targeting Americans for detention.

  • Recent prisoner swaps between the U.S. and Russia have seen Moscow receive people who organized international criminal rings in order for Washington to secure the release of Americans accused of committing minor infractions.

Details: The press service of the Moscow courts said on Tuesday that Robert Woodland Romanov was accused of preparing to get involved in illegal drug trafficking but did not offer any details related to the alleged crime.

  • The Ostankino District Court ruled over the weekend to keep Romanov in pre-trial detention for two months.
  • Romanov's name matched that of a U.S. citizen who gave an interview to a Russian newspaper in 2020, Reuters reported.
  • In the interview, the man said he was born in Russia but was adopted by an American couple and had traveled to Russia to find his biological mother.

The big picture: Romanov is the latest American to be arrested by Russian authorities in recent years.

  • WNBA star Brittney Griner was detained in 2022 over a vape cartridge with hashish oil in her luggage. After spending months in jail, Griner was exchanged for Viktor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer.
  • Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested and accused of espionage last March. He has been held in pre-trial detention for over 250 days without being convicted of a crime. The U.S. has deemed Gershkovich as being wrongfully imprisoned by Russia.
  • The U.S. also considers former Marine Paul Whelan to have been wrongfully imprisoned by Russia. He has been held on false espionage charges since December 2018.

Go deeper ... Putin: "Dialogue" is underway to free wrongfully detained Americans

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