American in Russia jailed for breaking into a children’s library

US citizen arrested on charges of ‘petty hooliganism’

Amelia Neath
Tuesday 07 May 2024 18:44 BST
Brittney Griner details poor conditions she experienced in frigid Russian prison

An American in Russia on a tourist visa has been arrested in Moscow after he allegedly broke into a children’s library while intoxicated.

The man, identified by news reports and Moscow’s court service as William Russell Nycum, was arrested on “petty hooliganism” charges and sentenced to 10 days in jail, according to Reuters.

Reports claim that Mr Nycum, an English language tutor, broke a window to gain entry to the library. Russia’s RENTV said, according to CBS, that after the man had climbed through the window of a children’s library in Moscow, he fell asleep.

Video footage aired by the Russian network showed a person, partially clothed, in what appeared to be a courtyard of the building, according to CBS.

Mr Nycum is in Russia on a six-month tourist visa and was staying with acquaintances, reports said. It is unclear when he first arrived in the country, The Associated Press reports.

William Russell Nycum, pictured on his Russian tourist visa. He reportedly fell asleep while intoxicated in a children’s library in Moscow, where he was later detained (Ren TV)

Moscow’s court service said on Tuesday that he had been found naked in the outside courtyard after drinking alcohol. The court service described the incident as one which "expressed obvious disrespect to society, citizens and public order,” Reuters reported.

There has been no immediate confirmation of Mr Nycum’s arrest from US authorities. The Independent has contacted the Department of the State for comment.

The news of the American’s arrest in Russia comes hours after confirmation that another US citizen was arrested and will be held in custody for at least two months over an alleged theft.

US soldier Gordon Black, 34, was arrested, according to Russian court spokesperson Elena Oleneva, and will be held in jail until at least 2 July.

The US Army said on Monday it had been informed about the detention. The soldier was detained in the Russian port city of Vladivostok.

Mr Black was charged with “secretly stealing property” from a woman he had met in South Korea, according to Russia’s interior ministry. The pair reportedly started a relationship and when the woman returned to Vladivostok, Mr Black travelled to Russia to visit her.

Mr Black is being held in pre-trial detention, the court said in a separate statement, referring only to “US citizen B”.

When asked by Reuters about the detention of the two US nationals, a spokesperson for the US embassy in Moscow said that they are “aware of the reports of US citizens being arrested inside of Russia.”

“Consular officers from the embassy always seek to aid citizens with appropriate assistance, but due to privacy concerns, we aren’t able to comment further,” the spokesperson added.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s office in Vladivostok has claimed that Mr Black’s arrest has nothing to do with politics or espionage, according to state news agency TASS.

Tensions between the US and Russia have remained at high levels ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February in 2022. Arrests of US citizens in Russia have reached levels equivalent to the Cold War, AP said.

Among the Americans jailed are Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been imprisoned since last March, and former US marine Paul Whelan, who was arrested in 2018. The US government has said both are wrongfully detained.

WNBA player Brittney Griner was also detained by Russia in early 2022 on drug-related charges and sentenced to nine years before being later released as part of a prisoner exchange between the US and Russia.

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