Eric Creamer with his son. Photo: courtesy of Eric Creamer
American citizen Eric Thomas Creamer spent seven years in Moscow working as an English teacher and translator, including at a language centre associated with the prestigious Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT). According to Creamer, he left Russia after being detained, framed with drugs, threatened with a gun, and extorted for half a million rubles under the insinuation that he was a spy. Four years later, he found himself in Armenia, unable to leave because Russia has issued a warrant for his arrest over drug posession. Although he’s not detained or facing extradition in Armenia, Creamer has been trying for over two years to return home to his 11-year-old son and ailing mother. This is his story.
Many Americans and Europeans living in Russia, particularly those working in the humanities, tend to be Russophiles. Eric Thomas Creamer, who lived in Moscow from 2010 to 2017, admits he always had a fairly neutral stance towards Russian culture. As a certified teacher and translator, he just found it lucrative.
Creamer first went to Russia in 2005 as an 18-year-old exchange student, just after finishing high school, and landed in Irkutsk, Siberia. There, he attended a lyceum created at the Irkutsk State University. After a year in Russia and another in the US, he returned to Irkutsk to study for one and a half years at Irkutsk State Technical University.
Though he had a student visa at the time, Creamer started working part-time as an English teacher. It was then, he says, that he had his first encounter with Russian law enforcement. “Funny story, I asked a student what he did, and he said he was an FSB agent looking for illegal immigrants. I asked him, ‘You know I’m a student and shouldn’t be working here, right?’ He replied, ‘You’re a teacher; I won’t do anything. I’m looking for Chinese people,’” Creamer shared with Mediazona in Armenia, where he currently cannot leave.
When the young man returned to the US and it was time to choose a major at Ohio University, he decided to pursue a degree in Russian, given his familiarity with the language. This allowed him to skip the first two years of the course, as he already knew the material. The US Air Force awarded him a scholarship for studying Russian as a designated “critical language.” After graduating, he came to work at a Moscow school in the BKC-International House network.
The young teacher, according to him, quickly built up a clientele: he was often invited to tutor in homes along the Rublyovka highway, where he taught English, accompanied people as a translator at business meetings, and translated documents. During this time, he married a Russian woman, and in 2012, their son Alexander—simply called Alex in the family—was born.
In 2015, he joined the newly established Centre for Language Training and Testing at MIPT. Initially, they wanted to hire his friend, but he lacked a degree; then a Canadian candidate, who was hit by a bus; and the third candidate was Creamer himself.
Eric’s workload increased, with many seeking his expertise in translating scientific papers and presentations related to physics, chemistry, and engineering. Despite his lack of understanding in these fields, Creamer claims that on at least one occasion, he was hinted by the director that he should not have seen a student’s presentation about satellites.
Following the Euromaidan events in Kyiv, Creamer made a couple of trips to Ukraine and Latvia for visa-related matters. Upon his return, he was thoroughly interrogated by FSB border service officers. He was often invited to conferences and asked to speak English at the end—a role he likened to being a “white monkey,” as in China.
Eric confesses that the only thing he was passionate about was helping scientists leave Russia. “I still help them. I want [this] country to fall apart, and brain drain is a good weapon for that. Plus, I feel sorry for the people: a salary of 80,000 rubles a month. You can work at McDonald’s in the US and earn twice as much,” he thinks.
Life was relatively calm for the hardworking linguist, who earned a decent living. There was only one minor incident, according to him. In March 2017, he left his home in central Moscow at one in the morning to go to the campus in Dolgoprudny suburb for a textbook. The security guard gave him the key, but later, a camera recording in his office revealed that the foreigner had visited the MIPT center building at night. This alarmed the management, but it seemingly had no serious consequences.
He separated from his wife and started living with his girlfriend, Alexandra Fedorova, on Lesnaya Street.
Around 1 a.m. on April 12, 2017—a date Creamer recalls as Cosmonautics Day in Russia—he went to buy cigarettes when six plainclothes men asked for his ID and immediately pushed him into a car. He soon found himself in an attic, where he vividly remembers the antique interiors and a poster of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka, the Soviet secret police.
The American was handcuffed to a table and interrogated. Shocked, he struggles to recall the specifics, but there didn’t seem to be any particular focus to the questioning.
“They started accusing me of being a spy. At one point, a gun was held to my head. I don’t remember the question, but they were shouting, and I broke down and cried. They said if I paid them 500,000 rubles right then, they would let me go. I didn’t understand this nonsense and refused. Then they claimed they found drugs. Yes, ‘found’, how convenient!” Eric nervously recalls, showing visible agitation. “They showed me two foil packets. Then they brought in a witness, supposedly a taxi driver from the street. He confirmed seeing such packets.”
This ordeal continued until about 10 a.m., when Creamer was taken to the Tverskoye police department. The distraught teacher shouted at the police, demanding to make a call—he managed to contact his girlfriend and a student who was a lawyer. At the station, he was told he had signed some document, but Eric doesn’t remember doing so.
His girlfriend, Alexandra, who arrived at the station, remembers seeing Eric being dragged out in handcuffs and put into a police van, which he believes took him to the Lefortovo detention center. Someone there told him that since he had signed a document, he would be released the next day.
On the morning of April 13, Creamer was again put in a police van and spent half the day driving around Moscow. He recalls that later, a tall trans woman and two “bloggers” were also brought in—they turned out to be Vyacheslav Maltsev, the leader of Artpodgotovka, a left-nationalist anti-govermnet movement, and his associate Konstantin Zelenin. By midday, this group was taken back to the Tverskoye PD, a place Creamer was already familiar with.
TASS, the state news agency, citing a police source, published a report about the arrest of a US citizen working as a teacher at MIPT for drug possession. Later, in another report, the agency claimed, referencing documents, that a search was conducted at the American’s apartment, where law enforcement found 0.94 grams of mephedrone, a popular drug. However, Eric and his girlfriend, with whom he was living at the time, assert that their apartment was not on the mentioned street—however, these streets do intersect,—and that no search was conducted there.
Creamer was also mentioned by the now-deceased member of the Human Rights Council and deputy chairman of the public council at the Moscow police department, Andrei Babushkin, who visited the police station that day due to the arrest of prominent opposition figure, Maltsev.
“Detained Eric Thomas Creamer, a US citizen accused of drug possession, reported that during his arrest he was subjected to psychological pressure, intimidated, and yelled at, but not physically harmed. He identified the police officers, whom he thought were Georgian and Belarusian, around 30 years old, demanding a bribe of half a million rubles. He was unable to call his relatives from the time of his arrest at 1.00 a.m. until 9.00 a.m.; he received no food. A fictitious signature of Creamer was found in the food distribution log (duty officer Statnikov). As directed by the prison management, Creamer was subsequently fed,” wrote Babushkin.
By evening, the prediction of the detention center employee came true: Eric was released from police custody. According to Tverskoy Court documents, he was charged with drug possession and was restricted from leaving the country.
The next day, early in the morning, Creamer planned to go to his ex-wife in Tushino district—she was leaving for work, and he was to look after their five-year-old son. The teacher called a taxi, but upon descending, he encountered two policemen.
“They asked for my documents and started questioning—what are you doing here, where are you going?” he recounts. MIPT advised him to take sick leave. Following his lawyer friend’s advice, on April 26, he left Russia, not heading straight to the USA but first to Norway, then spending a week in Amsterdam because “I was in the state of fucking shock and not ready to go home directly.”
At Moscow Sheremetyevo airport, Creamer notes, his migration card was not taken—a first in his history of numerous crossings of the Russian border. Returning to Ohio, Eric says he was still so traumatized that he sought help at a psychiatric clinic, where he was held for a week due to suicide risk and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
With time, the Moscow nightmare began to fade. Eric’s ex-wife and son moved to the USA, and he was delighted to take part in raising his son. His new girlfriend, Alexandra, also visited him periodically, or they would travel together across Europe. They recall a lengthy separation due to the coronavirus pandemic: parting in Amsterdam airport in January 2020, they saw news about the “new Chinese disease” on television.
Finally, in September 2021, they met in Georgia. With rainy weather in Tbilisi and sunny skies in Yerevan, Eric and Alexandra decided to spend a weekend in Armenia. On October 1, upon entering Armenia through a land border checkpoint, border guards took Eric’s passport. After half an hour without explanation, they took him to a station.
There, according to Creamer, six Armenians and one Russian tried to persuade him to sign a document in Armenian—later, with a lawyer’s help, he learned it was consent for extradition to Russia. He refused, and eventually, they brought him back to the checkpoint and released him, warning that Russia had issued a warrant for his arrest and he couldn’t leave Armenia. Eric recalls the border guards even found him a taxi driver willing to go to Yerevan, but the wary American chose another driver (whose brakes failed on the way).
According to court documents, Russia first issued a warrant for Creamer’s arrest on August 10, 2017—four months after he left the country. His location was discovered “during operational search activities” when crossing the Armenian border. He has been charged in absentia.
The linguist approached the US Embassy in Yerevan, but they said they couldn’t help—Creamer stresses his wish for the US public to learn about it from the media. The embassy declined to comment on Creamer’s case to Mediazona.
“I contacted Trevor Reed, who spent three years in Moscow. He told me that for three years, the State Department paid no attention to his calls, and it was only when his parents managed to meet [President Joe] Biden personally that he was released 20 days later,” Eric shares.
A month later, on November 1, Creamer, his girlfriend, and his lawyer Arsen Sakhoyan headed to Yerevan airport, attempting to leave Armenia. At one point, the lawyer stepped aside with the police for five minutes, then returned and informed Eric he wouldn’t be flying anywhere. Creamer’s current lawyer, Karen Torosyan, claims he had a letter from the Armenian prosecutor’s office stating the country had no issues with him.
Despite this, the lawyer advised Creamer to stay indoors, fearing potential detention. For about a year while living in Yerevan, the American rarely left his apartment. Now living in a different city with his girlfriend, he thinks the caution may have been excessive, but at the time, he was terrified.
On the day of the failed departure from Armenia, Russia charged Creamer in absentia with drug possession, and three weeks later, he was declared wanted internationally. In mid-November, the Tverskoy District Court arrested him in absentia, but this decision was later annulled by the Moscow City Court. In March 2022, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs again unsuccessfully sought a court decision for his in-absentia arrest, which was finally granted in October 2022.
“All [Armenian agencies] refer to each other—as I understand, they’re all ‘not responsible for this.’ But I wasn’t deported or arrested, not even attempted. And they do nothing to let me go. I’m in some sort of trap, and nobody is trying to help, whether it’s an arrest or Interpol [declaring me wanted], or removing me—it’s Kafkaesque,” Creamer says, bewildered.
His Armenian lawyer, Karen Torosyan, confirms Creamer has no criminal status in Armenia and that the US Embassy provided no assistance. “Initially, our authorities just let him go. If there was a status—he would have been arrested and arranged to be transported to Russia. He could move freely in Armenia but couldn’t leave the country,” recounts Torosyan.
The lawyer continues: he’s trying to understand the situation regarding Creamer’s extradition to Russia but is still awaiting a response from the prosecutor’s office and a meeting with the Human Rights Defender in Armenia.
A Russian lawyer, requesting anonymity, tells Mediazona that a search warrant usually comes with an extradition request—and if there is a request, Armenian police should detain Creamer, “but apparently, they either don’t want to, or the request hasn’t been sent out.”
Torosyan similarly speculates: “After our letters, the police started acting, pretending they want to find him. But in my opinion, it’s just a formality, because if they find him—not to say he’s hiding—they won’t know what to do with him, and I don’t think they’d risk handing him over to the Russian side. I think they don’t want to find him until they figure out how to resolve this issue.”
Eric himself emphasizes that he likes Armenia, but he needs to get back home to Ohio even more.
“At home, my son lives with his mother, and I’m not worried about his health—I just miss him. Until I got stuck in Armenia, I spent my whole life with him. He came here for two weeks, but the most important thing is my mother; she’s had cancer three times. I specifically built a house nearby to care for her. I don’t know how she’s surviving; it’s getting worse and worse. I just want to go home, I want to go home,” he explains.
For two years, Eric hoped the situation would somehow resolve itself, allowing him to leave the country. Desperate, he decided to go public on his lawyer’s advice but was unexpectedly met with journalists’ indifference. According to him, a Canadian journalist living in Armenia met him and listened to his story but showed no further interest.
“I tried reaching out to representatives from Ohio in [House of Representatives] and the Senate. Everyone’s looking for a story about me, and there’s nothing—I can’t get help because no one writes about me. I’m not Brittney Griner, nor a WSJ journalist. American journalists don’t care because I’m not in prison; I feel like they’re waiting for me to be in a Russian penal colony,” the linguist says angrily. His situation has been reported in several friendly Twitter accounts and other blog platforms.
For now, he continues to teach English remotely, translate documents, and try to organize a “brain drain” from Russia—and he advises the Mediazona reporter to tell any scientists wanting to leave for the US that he can help.
With the onset of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he took a decidedly pro-Ukrainian stance, started fundraising for Ukraine, and even, by his account, became one of the first members of NAFO (North Atlantic Fella Organisation, a social media movement dedicated to actively countering Russian narratives about the invasion of Ukraine online). He also runs the Telegram channel OSINT 69 and Sons Presents, where he posts videos of Russian military casualties or about army disarray.
“I publish a lot of military videos where orcs die, the harshest ones, not just drones flying and exploding. I want to show the orcs’ suffering. Plus, I post a lot of videos from Russia, showing what a barbaric country it is, lots of suicides, debauchery. It’s anti-Russian propaganda, but I’m not making anything up, just using the same news and videos that Russians themselves post,” Creamer admits. “I choose the most terrible videos, but it’s the truth, and it paints a picture that Russia is an uncivilized country, so that Russians’ opinions are disregarded, because even in the West, people say that maybe Russia is right, and there are Nazis in Ukraine. No.”
Editor: Dmitry Tkachev
Support Mediazona now!
Your donations directly help us continue our work