Russia jails former US diplomat for 14 years for smuggling medical marijuana

Russia jails former US diplomat for 14 years for smuggling medical marijuana
Teacher has been accused of running drug smuggling ring into Russia

A former US diplomat who later became a teacher has been sentenced to 14 years in a Russian penal colony after airport workers allegedly found half an ounce of marijuana in his luggage.

Marc Fogel, who works at an English language school in Moscow, was detained at the Sheremeteyevo airport in Moscow in August. He has since been charged with smuggling and possession of ‘large scale” of narcotics after his luggage was subject to a random search.

Russian authorities claim he was using his former diplomatic status to run a drug smuggling ring into Moscow.

Mr Fogel pleaded guilty to the charges of smuggling, storing, transporting, manufacturing and processing narcotics. He told lawyers who visited him in Russia that he used the marijuana for medical needs resulting from a spinal surgery.

According to Mr Fogel, he was unaware of Russia’s ban on medicinal marijuana.

He is one of several Americans currently detained in Russia.

WNBA star Brittney Grinner also was detained at a Moscow airport after authorities allegedly found marijuana in her bags. She has been detained since February, and calls for her release from family, friends, fans and colleagues have poured out since.

The State Department said it was working to secure Ms Grinner’s release.

Two American fighters who joined Ukrainian forces in their fight against the Russian invasion have also been captured, according to their comrades and Russian authorities.

The men, Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, were reportedly captured after they disabled a Russian tank. They were separated from their unit, which lost sight of them in the fog of war. When the other members of their group went to look for them the men had disappeared.

Russian forces later shared on social media that they had captured two American fighters.

Their families and loved ones have also pressured the US State Department to work to bring them home.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the agency was aware of the men and warned Americans not to join the fighting in Ukraine, as they may be captured or killed.

Another American, former Marine Paul Whelan, has been imprisoned in Russia for two years on espionage charges. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020.

The most likely route for the Americans to be released is through a prisoner swap. Trevor Reed, an American who was arrested for allegedly drunkenly assaulting Russian police, was recently released thanks to a prisoner swap.

It is unclear if Russia would consider a prisoner swap for the American POWs. Russia recently sentenced two British nationals who fought as mercenaries in Ukraine to death by firing squad. The families of the captured American fighters fear they may face the same fate if the State Department fails to secure their release.