Russia sentences U.S. citizen to 12.5 years in prison on drug charges

A man in a glass cage in court talks to another man on the other side of the glass.
Robert Woodland, right, a Russia-born U.S. citizen, stands in a glass cage as he talks with lawyer Stanislav Kshevitsky before a court hearing on July 4, 2024, in Moscow.
(Alexander Zemlianichenko / Associated Press)
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Robert Woodland, a Russia-born U.S. citizen, was convicted of drug-related charges by a Moscow court and sentenced to 12½ years in prison on Thursday, court officials and his lawyers said.

He was found guilty of attempted trafficking of large amounts of illegal drugs as part of an organized group, according to an online statement released by court officials, and sentenced to 12½ years in a maximum-security penal colony. His lawyers told reporters after the verdict was delivered Thursday that they will appeal the ruling because Woodland’s guilt hasn’t been proved.

Lawyer Stanislav Kshevitsky also said that Woodland has been suffering from unspecified mental health issues. He didn’t provide any details, but said that the court didn’t take those issues into account.


Russian media reported that his name matches a U.S. citizen interviewed in 2020 who said he was born in the Perm region in 1991 and adopted by an American couple at age 2. He was arrested in January.

U.N. human rights experts say Russia violated international law by imprisoning Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and should release him ‘immediately.’

July 3, 2024

He said he traveled to Russia to find his birth mother and eventually met her on a TV show before deciding to move to Russia. Russian news agency Interfax has cited court officials as saying that Woodland also holds Russian citizenship.

Arrests of Americans in Russia have become increasingly common as relations between Moscow and Washington sink to Cold War lows. Washington accuses Moscow of targeting U.S. citizens and using them as political bargaining chips, but Russian officials insist they all broke the law.

Some have been exchanged for Russians held in the U.S., while for others, the prospects of being released in a swap are less clear.

The U.S. State Department said Thursday that it was aware that a U.S. citizen was sentenced by a Russian court and that the embassy in Moscow was closely monitoring the case. The department, citing privacy issues, said it would have no further comment.