A U.S. citizen has been arrested in Moscow on drug trafficking charges, the Moscow courts reported Saturday.
NBC News is not identifying the person by name at this time pending notification of his family.
The U.S. 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 U.S. citizen in Moscow,” a State Department spokesperson told NBC News.
“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 State Department spokesperson offered no further comment citing privacy considerations, but added, “The Department of State has no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad.”
The U.S. citizen will remain in custody until Aug. 6, the report said.
The U.S. government has said it continues to press Russia to release Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and American businessman Paul Whelan.
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.
The Biden administration is also working on the case of Whelan, a discharged Marine who was detained in 2018 in Russia and accused of espionage, a charge that he and the U.S. government have denied. In 2020, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
POST AUTHOR: Leila Sackur