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Mom of captured U.S. soldier Gordon Black says girlfriend ‘lured’ him to Russia

WorldMom of captured U.S. soldier Gordon Black says girlfriend 'lured' him to Russia

The worried mother of a U.S. soldier in Russian custody said Wednesday that her son “was lured” there by a Russian woman he had been seeing in South Korea for over a year and that he’s being held on trumped-up charges of stealing roughly $100 from her.

Melody Jones said she thinks her son, Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, was set up by his girlfriend, whom she identified as Aleksandra Vashchuk.

“I think she convinced him to come there,” Jones said in a video interview from her home in Cheyenne, Wyoming. “He wanted to see her for the last time before going home, and so he went there.”

The Russians detained Black, 34, on theft charges last week after he traveled from the military base in South Korea where he had been stationed to the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok.

A Defense Department spokesperson said Tuesday that the Army is investigating whether Russia’s intelligence services specifically targeted Black.

“There is an administrative investigation underway to determine the facts and circumstances around his travel,” deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said at a news conference Tuesday.

Black is an experienced soldier with 16 years of service who was supposed to be traveling to Fort Cavazos, Texas, to start a new assignment, the military said.

Asked why Black would risk traveling to a country where other Americans are being held against their will, Jones gave a one-word answer.

“Her,” she said. “He met her in the bar where she was working, and they’ve been together, on and off, for about a year and a half. I’ve never met her in person, but I’ve spoken to her over Messenger. My motherly instincts told me something was wrong with her.”

Jones said her son, who is in the midst of a divorce, “is a good boy with a cute, crooked smile.”

“He was a good soldier, too,” and he speaks fluent Russian, she said. 

But Vashchuk had some kind of hold over him, she said. 

“I was talking about it with my husband, and we don’t know what it is,” Jones said. “Why would she latch on to him?”

On Tuesday, Radio Free Europe found what it says is the TikTok account of a woman who posted several videos of her apparently with Black in South Korea in 2022 and 2023. The woman said in the videos that she lived in South Korea for five years.

Jones said that woman appeared to be Vashchuk.

The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry office in Vladivostok has said Black’s detention had nothing to do with politics or espionage.

Black didn’t have Defense Department clearance to visit Russia, nor is there any indication that he planned to stay there, Army spokesperson Cynthia O. Smith said earlier Tuesday.

Army investigating whether detained U.S. soldier was lured to Russia by intelligence services.
Staff Sgt. Gordon Black.Facebook

“Instead of returning to the continental United States, Black flew from Incheon, Republic of Korea through China to Vladivostok, Russia, for personal reasons,” Smith said in a statement.

When Black landed in Vladivostok, he was charged with “secretly stealing property” of a person referred to as “citizen T” and ordered held until at least July 2, Pervomaisky District Court spokeswoman Elena Oleneva said in a statement Tuesday.

The court confirmed that Black would be held for at least two months.

Jones said her son told her he was in civilian clothing when he was pulled off the plane and interrogated for several hours.

Black, who grew up in a small town in southern Illinois, enlisted in the Army as an infantryman in 2008, Smith said. From October 2009 through September 2010, he served in Iraq, Smith said. He also served in Afghanistan from June 2013 until March 2014.

Most recently, Smith said, Black was assigned to the Eighth Army and based at Camp Humphreys in South Korea, which is the largest overseas U.S. military installation in the world.

On April 10, Black was “out-processed” and given two weeks to get to Texas, Smith said.

Current travel guidance from the State Department advises against all travel to Russia.

Jones said her son told her he planned to stop in Vladivostok before he flew to Texas. 

“I was worried about him going, because the government there has been grabbing Americans,” she said. 

The captive Americans include Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was jailed in March 2023, and former Marine Paul Whelan, who was arrested in 2018. 

“I told him not to go,” Jones said. “I was more worried about him going to Russia than I was when he was in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Jones said her son texted her after he was detained.

“The last thing I got from his was ‘Don’t worry about me, I’m OK,’” she said. 

Jones said her son listed her as his emergency contact and that’s why she got the call from the State Department on Thursday that he had been arrested by the Russians. She said that she hasn’t heard from anybody since then and that she’s not sure whether his wife has been in touch with the military. 

“They have a 6½-year-old daughter,” Jones said. “And she misses her daddy.”

Jones said Black isn’t her only son. She has two others, as well as a daughter. So she won’t be alone on Mother’s Day.

“Gordon used to call me at least once a week,” she said. “And he usually sends me flowers on Mother’s Day. The last time it was two dozen red roses. But I guess not this year.”

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