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US teacher arrested in Russia for ‘large-scale’ drug smuggling

A security stands guard in the arrivals hall prior arriving Alexei Navalny in Vnukovo airport outside Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. Leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny plans to fly home to Russia on Sunday after recovering in Germany from his poisoning in August with a nerve agent. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Russian authorities say an American teacher was arrested in Moscow for “large-scale” drug smuggling after cannabis products were found on him at the airport.

Marc Fogel, who is a former employee of the US Embassy in Moscow, was passing through customs in August last year when trained dogs reacted to his luggage, the Russian interior ministry said on Thursday, adding that he was arrested to prevent him from hiding in the embassy.

It was not clear why the announcement was made months after the arrest.

“Since the suspect could hide from the investigation on the territory of the embassy, ​​the Khimki city court chose a measure of restraint in the form of detention,” it said.

“Marijuana and hash oil were found in the foreigner’s luggage. The drugs were carefully disguised,” it said in a statement.

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Marijuana was hidden in contact lens cases, while cannabis oil was found in e-cigarette cartridges, the statement said.

Fogel and his wife enjoyed diplomatic immunity up to May last year, the Russian interior ministry said.

At the time of his arrest, he had started teaching at the Anglo-American School of Moscow, the statement said.

Fogel has been charged with “large-scale smuggling and possession of drugs,” the statement said.

The US embassy said in a statement to the AFP news agency: “We take seriously our responsibility to assist US citizens abroad, and are monitoring the situation.”

The mission refused to provide further comment, citing privacy considerations.

Several Americans are currently being held in Russian prisons.

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The most prominent US citizen in Russian custody is Paul Whelan, a former security officer at an auto parts company who was arrested in 2018 on charges of espionage.

Trevor Reed is a former US marine, who was arrested in 2019 for a drunken brawl in which he is accused of punching two Russian police officers.

Russian authorities have offered to swap US prisoners for Russians held in American jails including contract pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko who was convicted in 2011 of smuggling drugs into the US.

Tensions between Russia and the US are soaring, with Washington accusing Moscow of plotting to invade Ukraine and the Kremlin demanding NATO halt its eastern expansion.

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