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Russia arrests American fmr. paratrooper on ‘drug dealing’ charges: Report

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his address to the nation at the Kremlin in Moscow on Feb. 21, 2022. (ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
June 12, 2023

An American citizen and ex-paratrooper was reportedly arrested in Moscow for allegedly “running a drug dealing business involving young people.” His first court appearance, during which he was locked in a metal cage, was reportedly broadcast on Russian state television.

According to Reuters, Russia’s court system identified the American as Michael Travis Leake, 51, a former U.S. paratrooper and musician for a Russian rock band.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson confirmed Leake’s arrest, Reuters reported. U.S. embassy officials attended his arraignment on Saturday.

“When a U.S. citizen is detained overseas, the Department pursues consular access as soon as possible and works to provide all appropriate consular assistance,” the Department spokesperson told Reuters in emails.

“We will continue to monitor the case closely.”

In addition to being shown standing in a cage, a photo of Leake lying on the floor in his underwear with his hands ties behind his back was also shown on Russian television.

“On June 10, 2023, Moscow’s Khamovniki District Court took a measure of restraint against a U.S. citizen,” Moscow’s courts of general jurisdiction said in a statement on Telegram.

“The former paratrooper and a musician, who is accused of running a drug dealing business involving young people, will remain in custody until Aug. 6, 2023.”

In March, Russian authorities arrested a Wall Street Journal reporter due to suspicions of spying. The arrest marks the first time Russia has detained an American journalist for alleged spying since the Cold War.

Russia’s Federal Security Bureau claimed reporter Evan Gershkovich was “acting on the instructions of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.”

“The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich,” the Journal said. “We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”

This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.