Russian court orders detention and deportation of U.S. woman in assault case

By Tatiana Gomozova and Filipp Lebedev

RYAZAN, Russia (Reuters) -A Russian court on Thursday ordered U.S. citizen Sarah Krivanek to be detained for 30 days before being deported to the United States in a case where she was imprisoned for almost 11 months on charges of assaulting her partner.

The decision was taken at a hearing in the city of Ryazan where Krivanek complained she had endured conditions "like hell" in a penal institution similar to the kind of prison colony to which U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner is currently being transferred.

The former English teacher was charged with assault last year for attacking her partner with a knife during a domestic dispute in which he received light facial injuries. A human rights activist involved with the case said she acted in self-defence.

She was then detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on Dec. 15 while to board a flight to Atlanta in violation of a preventive order that barred her from leaving Russia because of the assault case.

The United States is closely monitoring the case, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.

"We continue to insist that Russia... allow consistent, timely, consular access to all U.S. citizen detainees," Price told a regular press briefing.

At Thursday's hearing, Krivanek said it "shocked my world" when she was placed in a penal colony where she was put to work making artificial flowers for cemeteries and mortuaries.

"My colony was really like hell... It was forced labour," she said, complaining no medical treatment was available except for headache tablets.

"This kind of work is like slavery," she said. "Your salary is a joke. You maybe make only $3 a month," or enough for a packet of cigarettes.

Lawyers for double Olympic gold medallist Griner, sentenced by a Russian court in August to nine years in prison on drug smuggling and possession charges, say she was moved on Nov. 4 from a detention centre near Moscow and is on her way to a penal colony in an undisclosed location.

Washington is seeking to negotiate Griner's release in a prisoner swap. "My intention is to get her home," President Joe Biden told reporters on Wednesday.

In a phone conversation with a Reuters reporter on the eve of the hearing, Krivanek said she wanted to fly from Russia to the United States on her own and did not want to wait to be forcibly deported.

But she said she had no money to buy her own plane ticket, and a friend from California was trying to organise a crowd-funding campaign to raise money to buy it.

(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Writing by Mark TrevelyanEditing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Sandra Maler)