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U.S. citizen Michael Travis Leake detained in Moscow on drug charges

A Russian court has detained a U.S. citizen on drugs charges that could see him jailed for several years.

Moscow's Khamovnitchesky court said Michael Travis Leake, a "former paratrooper and musician," had "organized the sale of drugs to young people."

He'll be kept in custody "until August 6, 2023" pending a possible trial but the detention period could be extended, the court said on the Telegram messaging app.

A State Department spokesperson told the Reuters news service that officials from the U.S. Embassy attended Leake's 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 spokesperson said in emails to Reuters. "We will continue to monitor the case closely."

Reuters reports that Rossiya 24 state television showed Leake standing in a court cage and REN TV showed a picture of him as he was being taken into custody in Moscow on June 6 on the floor in his underwear wearing a T-shirt with his hands tied behind his back.

REN TV said a suspicious substance was found at Leake's apartment, according to Reuters.

Russia's Interfax news agency said Leake could face up to 12 years in prison if he's convicted, Reuters added.

CNN says Leake is a musician and music producer who's lived in Russia for many years.

Reuters cites a source as saying the rock group he was a member of hadn't done a concert since 2019.

Leake was an English teacher and helped translate songs for Russian bands when he first got to Moscow, Reuters says.

Arrests of U.S. citizens in Russia have increased in recent years against a backdrop of deteriorating relations between Moscow and Washington that have hit new lows since Russia sent troops into Ukraine.

The U.S. "has repeatedly told its citizens to leave Russia due to the risk of arbitrary arrest or harassment by Russian law enforcement agencies," Reuters notes.

Washington has accused Moscow of arbitrarily detaining US citizens for use as bargaining chips to secure the release of Russians jailed in the United States.

In March, Russian security services arrested Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich on accusations of "espionage" that he denies.

U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan is serving a 16-year jail term in Russia, where he was found guilty of "spying."

And in December, a prisoner swap was arranged between Moscow and Washington involving U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner, jailed in Russia on drug charges, and Russia arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was imprisoned in the U.S. for weapons smuggling.

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