Exclusive-Before arrest in Russia, US soldier's relationship with Russian girlfriend turned bloody, wife says By Reuters
2024-05-13 04:21:07
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By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Months before his arrest in Russia, U.S. Army soldier Gordon Black made a surprise video call from his overseas tour in South Korea to his 6-year-old daughter in Texas.

Instead of a normal chat, however, his daughter and wife witnessed a fight break out between Black and his Russian girlfriend that became bloody, said his wife, Megan. Screaming turned to violence, with his girlfriend clawing at his face. Then she pulled a knife.

"She stabbed him," Megan Black told Reuters in an exclusive interview, saying Black "had blood on his face." Her daughter was distraught.

Black could not be reached for comment about the video call. The Army did not respond to a request for comment about his case. Reuters was unsuccessful reaching Black through the State Department.

Black, a U.S. Army staff sergeant posted at Camp Humphreys outside Seoul, was arrested on May 2 in Russia's far eastern city of Vladivostok and is being held in pre-trial confinement, accused of theft after an argument, according to Russian authorities.

His mother, Melody Jones, told Reuters he followed his girlfriend to Russia even though they "fought like cats and dogs."

"I told them both: You don't need to be together. One of you is going to get hurt one of these days," Jones said. "You know, because if you fight, it's a not a good thing if it's all you do."

Black's arrest presents another headache for U.S. officials already coping with several high-profile detention cases in Russia, including Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.

An Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, Black broke army rules by traveling to Russia without Army authorization, and flew through China to get there, the Pentagon says.

Neither Russian authorities, the Pentagon, Black's wife nor his mother have suggested anything like espionage as a concern. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the case had no political element.

'PULLING TEETH'

In her only interview, Megan Black became emotional when describing life with her husband, and explained that they were finalizing their divorce when Black was arrested.

Her attorney, Jeff Linick, said Black's wife had not received any of her husband's housing allowance, which he is given by the military. Linick said she and her daughter are entitled to support under military regulations, even if the couple is separated.

Although Megan Black is caring for their daughter, her husband had refused to pay the court-ordered child support, Linick said. It was not until she went to the military and its lawyers that they recently started withholding some child support from his paychecks, he said.

"It really took pulling teeth... essentially threaten legal enforcement to finally get the Army - I imagine against his wishes - to finally withhold some child support from his payments," Linick said.

The Army did not respond to a request for comment about support payments, and Black could not be reached for comment. Linick said Gordon Black was representing himself in the Texas divorce.

Megan Black said she met her husband at a bar in 2014 in Killeen, Texas, near his base at Fort Cavazos. The two hit it off quickly, and she recalls how he was charming and accepted her despite a speech impediment.

"He was good to me at one point," she said.

Things started to sour around 2018, and Gordon Black initiated divorce proceedings shortly after he left for South Korea.

CONFUSION

Megan Black said she first learned of the Russian girlfriend around January 2022 when she saw pictures of them together on Facebook (NASDAQ:). The girlfriend was calling him "her husband," Black said.

Jones said she thought the Russian girlfriend was "sent back" to Russia from South Korea, possibly after a problem with her paperwork. She had warned her son not to follow her there.

"I tried to tell him not to go," she said. Megan Black said she and her daughter had no idea he was in Russia and had been expecting him in Texas, as his tour in South Korea had just ended.

On May 2, the day Russian authorities say they arrested him at a local hotel, Megan Black says she got a message from him "telling me that he wasn't coming home."

That was the last she heard from him.

She said the case has hurt her daughter's image of her father.

"She now looks at her dad as a bad man," she said.

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