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US citizen detained on drug charges in Moscow identified as rock band manager Travis Leake

By Josh Pennington, Raja Razek, Philip Wang, Sandi Sidhu, Heather Chen, Sophie Jeong, Jennifer Hansler and Camila Bernal, CNN

(CNN) — The US State Department has confirmed the arrest of American citizen Travis Leake in Russia and said US embassy officials attended his arraignment Saturday.

Moscow’s courts of general jurisdiction earlier released a statement on the social media app Telegram saying a US citizen had been detained on drugs charges.

Leake was detained on Saturday where “the Khamovniki District Court of Moscow took a preventive measure against an American citizen,” it said.

A court statement identified him “Travis Michael Leek.”

“The former paratrooper and musician is accused of engaging in the narcotics business through attracting young people,” the statement said.

It added he had appeared at the Khamovniki District Court of Moscow on June 10 and will remain in custody until August 6, 2023.

On Sunday, the US State Department confirmed Leake’s detention.

“We can confirm that Michael Travis Leake was arrested and is detained in Moscow. Embassy officials attended his arraignment on June 10,” a spokesperson told CNN.

“We will continue to monitor the case closely.”

“The US Department of State and our embassies and consulates abroad have no greater priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas,” they said.

“When a US citizen is detained overseas, the Department pursues consular access as soon as possible and works to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”

Leake’s mother says she hasn’t heard from officials yet

Leake’s mother Glenda Garcia says she has yet to hear from US government officials regarding the current status of her son and is worried about what he’s going through.

“Of course, I am worried. Of course, I am concerned, ” she told CNN on Sunday. “He’s in prison in a foreign country, that is a concern.”

Garcia said she doesn’t know if her son has an attorney and she doesn’t know what to do herself.

“I have not heard from the State Department. If I don’t hear from them tomorrow, I will try to call them,” she said. “I don’t really know anything other than what I heard on the news.”

Garcia last spoke with her son on Mother’s Day, she said, noting they typically talk every few weeks.

Regarding her son’s time in Russia, Garcia said, “I know he was in a band, I know he taught English.”

Denial of guilt

Video of Leake’s arrest from his home and a mug shot from a Russian police station were published by Russian media outlets on June 8.

Ren TV, a tabloid outlet, reported Leake’s statements to police in which he reportedly said: “I don’t understand why I’m here. I don’t admit guilt, I don’t believe I could have done what I’m accused of because I don’t know what I’m accused of.”

The arrest comes amid Russia’s war with Ukraine, which has seen already poor relations between the US and Russia plummet.

In March, Russian security services arrested US journalist Evan Gershkovich, accusing him of spying, which he denies.

Interviewed by Bourdain

CNN filmed with Leake in 2014 for an episode of Parts Unknown in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Host Anthony Bourdain had personally hand-picked Leake to participate in the show.

In the episode, Leake talked about his frustrations with censorship and relayed an incident involving his band and MTV. “This was a documentary series about musicians standing up and risking their lives in some cases, to stand up against government abuse of power, government corruption,” he said. “And yet, a foreign government was able to editorially control what Americans viewers see on their TV screens. That to me is a scandal of epic proportion.”

Darya Tarasova, who had produced the episode, said the “band wasn’t that famous but Travis and his friends had been very vocal about the freedom of speech and state oppression in Russia. Bourdain really liked that interview,” she said.

“Travis was a showman; very articulate and he loved Russia,” Tarasova added. “Bands from the Moscow rock scene would go to him to write songs in English for them and proofread their lyrics,” she said.

“The last time we spoke was in 2018 and he seemed depressed and upset, but Travis would never do the things he is being accused of. He is an American in Russia and is very aware of the situation he’s in. But I’m surprised he stayed after the war started, as it was very risky for him.”

Social media accounts and videos confirmed by a CNN reporter show Leake as a frontman in Lovi Noch, which translates to “Catch the Night.”

He was also a music producer for other Russian music groups during his time in Moscow.

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