US-Russian Citizen Is Arrested In Russia Over $51 Ukrainian Charity Donation, With The Possibility Of A 20-year Prison Sentence For Treason

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Ksenia Karelina, a 33-year-old Los Angeles resident, was arrested in Yekaterinburg, Russia, for allegedly “providing financial assistance to a foreign state in activities directed against Russia’s security,” as stated by the Federal Security Service (FSB). 

 A video by RIA Novosti, a Russian media outlet, shows Karelina, her face partly hidden by a hat, being led by a security officer, handcuffed, and then seen in a courtroom holding area.

Chris Van Heerden, Karelina’s boyfriend, said he bought her tickets for her birthday so she could visit her family in Russia, a trip she was excited about. As per her employer, a spa in Beverly Hills, the woman was arrested for donating $51.80 to a Ukrainian charity in the US. She made this donation on February 24, 2022, the day Russia invaded Ukraine. This action now risks her facing up to 20 years in prison.

Karelina’s arrest occurred in January, yet it wasn’t until February 8 that the US government became aware of the situation, according to a statement from a US official. 

According to the FSB, since February 2022, Karelina has been actively raising funds for Ukrainian forces, helping to buy medical supplies, equipment, and weapons. She has also participated in protests in the US supporting Ukraine. The White House is actively seeking information on the arrest of Karelina, who is a dual US-Russian citizen.

Russia continues to detain US citizens, including journalist Evan Gershkovich and former marine Paul Whelan, amidst discussions of a potential prisoner swap with the US. The situation highlights ongoing tensions and the complex dynamics of international relations and personal freedoms amidst geopolitical conflicts.

Karelina’s arrest in January was revealed just as Putin indicated ongoing secret talks with the US about a prisoner exchange, including Evan Gershkovich, a journalist imprisoned on espionage charges. However, dual citizens like Karelina are rarely considered in these exchanges.