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Former U.S. Embassy Employee Held In Alleged Drug Trafficking Case In Russia

Russia's Interior Ministry says a U.S. citizen who is a former employee of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow is under investigation for allegedly trafficking illegal drugs, a charge the suspect denies.

According to a statement by the ministry on January 27, Marc Fogel, who works as a teacher at the Anglo-American School in the Russian capital, was detained last year upon arriving in Moscow from New York with his wife.

The ministry said that the couple was stopped at customs after drug sniffing dogs found marijuana and hashish oil in his luggage. It added that Fogel held diplomatic status until mid-2021 and could have been using it to organize illegal drug trafficking to Russia.

A member of Russia's Public Monitoring Commission group, Aleksandr Khurudzhi, told the Interfax news agency that he and his colleagues visited Fogel in a detention center in Moscow last month, with Fogel telling them that "he does not understand why he was arrested."

In a separate statement on January 27, the ministry said that law enforcement officers searched the premises of the Anglo-American school in Moscow and confiscated documents, personal items, and a baseball bat from Fogel's office.

Fogel is one of several American citizens incarcerated in Russia in recent years on charges that their families, supporters, and in some cases the U.S. government, have said appear trumped up.

Former U.S. Marine, Paul Whelan, was sentenced by a court in Moscow to 16 years in prison in May 2020 on espionage charges condemned by the United States as a "mockery of justice.”

Another former U.S. Marine, Trevor Reed, was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2020 after being arrested and charged with assaulting two Russian police officers in 2019.

Whelan and Reed maintain their innocence. They are serving their prison term in penal colonies in Mordovia, a region about 350 kilometers east of Moscow with a longstanding reputation for hosting Russia's toughest prisons, including Soviet-era labor camps for political prisoners.

The United States has been pushing Russia to release Whelan and Reed.

With reporting by TASS and Interfax

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