A U.S. national has been arrested and detained on drugs charges in Russia, authorities said Tuesday, making him the latest American to be held pending a criminal trial in the country as tensions soar amid the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.
The Ostankino District Court of Moscow said in a statement dated Jan. 6 but released Tuesday that Robert Romanov Woodland would be detained for two months as part of a “pre-trial restriction.
He is accused of the “illegal acquisition, storage, transportation, production, processing of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances or their analogues,” the statement said.
Russia’s Criminal Code states that anyone found guilty of this crime can be jailed for eight to 20 years and face an unlimited fine.
A court document states that Woodland has dual Russian-American nationality, is currently unemployed and has no criminal record.
The document also says that investigators believe “criminal activity is his main source of income,” and that his pre-trial detention is justified by the possibility he would go into hiding.
The document adds that Woodland’s attorney argued against his detention and for house arrest instead, but this was rejected by the court due to a lack of medical evidence that he couldn’t be placed in a pre-trial detention center.
There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow or the State Department.
According to Woodland’s Facebook profile, he lives in Dolgoprudyy, a suburb north of Moscow, and has worked as an English teacher. He went to school in Saranac Lake, a town in upstate New York.
On his Instagram page, Woodland said he was born in Russia but raised in the U.S.
In 2020, Woodland said in an interview with the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that he was born in 1991 in Russia’s Perm region and was adopted by U.S. parents who had to pay $10,000 to do so.
He told the newspaper that one year earlier he met his Russian biological mother during a TV show on the state-run Channel 1. He said he then visited her home and then decided to stay in Russia.
Another U.S. national, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, is also detained and awaiting trial in Russia. In November a Moscow court extended his detention until at least January 30.
Authorities accuse him of spying on Russia’s military — both Gershkovich and his employer deny this and maintain he was wrongfully detained while working as a journalist.
The U.S. says that Gershkovich is one of a number of its citizens wrongfully detained in the country, including former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan. Alsu Kurmasheva, a dual Russian American reporter, was detained late last year and charged with failure to register as a foreign agent.