U.S. citizen Robert Woodland Romanov sits in a cage prior...

U.S. citizen Robert Woodland Romanov sits in a cage prior to a court session on drug-related charges in Moscow, Russia, Monday, April 15, 2024. A U.S. citizen arrested on drug charges in Moscow amid soaring Russia-U.S. tensions has appeared in court. Robert Woodland Romanov is facing charges of trafficking large amounts of illegal drugs as part of an organized group — a criminal offense punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Credit: AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko

MOSCOW — A U.S. citizen arrested on drug charges in Moscow amid soaring Russia-U.S. tensions over Ukraine appeared in court on Monday.

Robert Woodland Romanov is facing charges of trafficking large amounts of illegal drugs as part of an organized group — a criminal offense punishable by up to 20 years in prison. He was remanded into custody in January, and the trial began in the Ostankino District Court in late March. A new court hearing is scheduled for next week.

In January, the U.S. State Department said it was aware of reports of the recent detention of a U.S. citizen and noted that it “has no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas,” but refrained from further comment, citing privacy considerations. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow issued a similar statement at the time.

Russian media noted that the name of the accused matches that of a U.S. citizen interviewed by the popular daily Komsomolskaya Pravda in 2020.

In the interview, the man said that he was born in the Perm region in the Ural Mountains in 1991 and was adopted by an American couple when he was 2. He said that he traveled to Russia to find his Russian mother and eventually met her on a TV show in Moscow.

The man told Komsomolskaya Pravda that he liked living in Russia and decided to move there. The newspaper reported that he settled in the town of Dolgoprudny just outside Moscow and was working as an English teacher at a local school.

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 its citizens and using them as political bargaining chips, but Russian officials insist they all broke the law.

U.S. citizen Robert Woodland Romanov sits in a cage prior...

U.S. citizen Robert Woodland Romanov sits in a cage prior to a court session on drug-related charges in Moscow, Russia, Monday, April 15, 2024. A U.S. citizen arrested on drug charges in Moscow amid soaring Russia-U.S. tensions has appeared in court. Robert Woodland Romanov is facing charges of trafficking large amounts of illegal drugs as part of an organized group — a criminal offense punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Credit: AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko

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.

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