U.S. State Department aware of reports American sentenced in Russia

A general view shows the U.S. embassy in Moscow, Russia March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

WASHINGTON, June 17 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department is aware of reports an American had been sentenced to prison in Russia and is monitoring the situation, a spokesperson said on Friday, a day after a Russian news agency said a court had handed down a 14-year jail term to a former employee of the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

The Interfax news agency said Marc Fogel had been detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport last August with drugs. He was employed at the Anglo-American School of Moscow at the time of his arrest, it said.

Fogel, who was ordered to serve his sentence in a maximum security penal colony, pleaded guilty to charges of smuggling, storing, transporting, manufacturing and processing narcotic drugs, Interfax said.

"We are aware of reports of a U.S. citizen sentenced in Russia. We take seriously our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens abroad, and are monitoring the situation," the State Department spokesperson said.

The sentence was handed down amid increasing tensions between Russia and the United States over the war in Ukraine and other matters.

Star U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner was detained at the Sheremetyevo airport on Feb. 17 on allegations of having cannabis oil vape cartridges in her luggage. This week her pre-trial detention was extended to July 2. read more

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian jail on espionage charges in June 2020. read more

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis Editing by Paul Simao

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