Russia detains US citizen on drug trafficking charges

An American citizen identified as Michael Travis Leake has been arrested and detained by Russian authorities on drug trafficking charges.

According to NBC, Leake, a paratrooper and musician was arrested in Moscow on Saturday.

The US citizen in question has been charged with “illegal production, sale or shipment of narcotic drugs on a large scale,” the state-owned Radio Sputnik reported.

The Moscow courts later confirmed the arrest. It added that the maximum sentence for this crime was 20 years imprisonment.

“We are aware of reports of the recent arrest of a US citizen in Moscow,” a State Department spokesperson told NBC News.

“When a US citizen is detained overseas, the Department pursues consular access as soon as possible and works to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”

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The State Department spokesperson has not commented further on the matter citing privacy considerations.

However, he added, “The Department of State has no higher priority than the safety and security of US citizens abroad.”

NBC reported that Leake will remain in custody until August 6.

The US government has said it would continue to mount pressure on Russia to release Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and American businessman Paul Whelan who are currently held.

This spring, State Department formally declared that Gershkovich was being wrongfully detained — an official classification that allows its Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs to devote even more resources to secure his release.

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