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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

American Says He Killed in Self-Defense

A 28-year-old U.S. soldier detained by police in Moscow over the weekend has admitted to killing a Russian man, but insists that he acted in self-defense, a U.S. military spokesman said Monday.

The soldier, Christopher Garner, and his Ukrainian wife, Svetlana, turned themselves in to Moscow police Saturday.

Garner said he strangled the man, a relative of his wife, and hid his body near the far eastern city of Khabarovsk last week, Moscow police said.

"Garner has stated that he killed the Russian national in self-defense and turned himself in," said Tom McCollum, a spokesman for Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where Garner's 18th Airborne Corps is based.

McCollum said Garner had contacted the U.S. Embassy before turning himself in.

An embassy spokeswoman confirmed that Garner had contacted the embassy but said she was unaware of the circumstances surrounding the killing.

A Moscow police official said Garner admitted to strangling the unidentified man in Khabarovsk on Thursday, placing his body in a bag and dumping it in the nearby village of Solnechny.

He and his wife fled to Moscow, where they decided to turn themselves in, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

"He said he had been haunted by nightmares and decided to spill the beans," the official said.

Khabarovsk police, following Garner's directions, have found the body, the official said.

Garner was detained Saturday and is being held at a Moscow detention facility.

A court sanctioned his detention on Sunday.

The whereabouts of Garner's wife were unclear.

It was unclear how long Garner had been in Russia and what he was doing here. His wife, although a native of Ukraine, had lived in Khabarovsk.

The U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said the embassy was trying to arrange a meeting with Garner and the U.S. military had been notified about the detention.

She declined to comment on whether Garner had any relatives and if they had been notified.

McCollum also refused to comment on Garner's family or on any aspect of his military service.

In most cases, the law obliges suspects in grave crimes such as murder to be sent to the region where the crime occurred.

That means Garner should be transferred to Khabarovsk to face an investigation.

The Moscow police official said the Moscow City Prosecutor's Office or the Prosecutor General's Office would carry out an initial investigation before sending the case to prosecutors in the Khabarovsk region.

An official who picked up the telephone at the Khabarovsk regional police department said he had heard about the case and hung up the receiver.

A spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General's Office said she was unaware of the case.

Calls to the Moscow City Prosecutor's Office and the Moscow branch of the Federal Prison Service, which runs Moscow's detention facilities, went unanswered Monday.