Russian court denies appeal of Los Angeles woman held on ‘treason’ charge


A judge in Russia on Thursday denied the appeal of a Los Angeles woman detained on suspicion of treason, apparently for making a small donation to a charity that aids Ukraine.

Russian media reported that Ksenia Karelina, a 32-year-old dual U.S.-Russia citizen, appeared by video link in Sverdlovsk Region Court in the city of Yekaterinburg, where Russian security officers arrested her on Jan 27. She was shown behind bars wearing a white long-sleeve shirt.

Reports said the judge rejected a request from a lawyer for Karelina that she be released from detention to stay under house arrest with her parents in Yekaterinburg before a trial.

“What’s happening to Ksenia is a terrible punishment,” said Isabella Koretz, a friend who owns the Ciel Spa in Beverly Hills, where Karelina is employed as an aesthetician. “Just to imagine that an American citizen is in Russian jail right now for making a donation to the victims of war and for having the audacity to visit her parents. Are these truly her crimes?”

“The American government and all of us here need to continue to fight for her release.”

Russia’s Federal Security Service announced the arrest on Feb. 20, saying a Los Angeles woman was “proactively collecting funds in the interests of one of the Ukrainian organizations.”

Independent media identified her as Ksenia Khavana, her married name before a divorce, and said she was arrested for donating a little more than $50 to Razom for Ukraine, or Together for Ukraine, a New York-based group that gives humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Karelina briefly appeared in court that day while handcuffed and wearing a white jacket and a cap drawn over her eyes. A man in military fatigues escorted her. The court date was postponed because Karelina did not have a lawyer.

According to the Russian state media agency Tass, she will be held in pretrialdetention until at least April.

Experts in U.S.-Russia relations expect her to be in Russian prison for much longer.

“There is tremendous repression taking place in Russia, and it seems that because of her status as an American, she is caught up in it,” said Brian D. Taylor, a political science professor at Syracuse University.

The U.S. State Department said it has been denied consular access to Karelina, who immigrated to the United States more than a decade ago and became a citizen in 2021.

Russian law typically treats dual citizens as Russian citizens only.

Karelina, an amateur ballerina who moved to Los Angeles in 2015 from Maryland, had traveled to Russia to visit her parents, younger sister and a grandmother, said Chris Van Heerden, her boyfriend, who lived with her in West L.A.

Van Heerden, 36, said Russian agents immediately questioned Karelina upon her arrival on Jan. 2 and took her phone.

He said the Federal Security Service told her to check in weekly with security officials and banned her from leaving Yekaterinburg, where she grew up.

Van Heerden said he spoke to Karelina the evening of Jan. 26 from Los Angeles — Jan. 27 in Yekaterinburg — when she told him she was going to meet officials to “sign documents and retrieve her phone.”

“She told me, ‘Babe, it’s over. They said I have nothing to worry about,’” Van Heerden recounted. “Instead, I found out she was jailed. Now all I can do is worry.”

Russia has made several high-profile arrests of Americans in recent years on charges that the U.S. government has said are dubious. Experts say Russia’s strategy is to trade American prisoners for Russians held in the U.S.

In 2022, professional basketball player Brittney Griner was kept behind bars for 10 months before the Kremlin traded her for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the U.S. Griner was found in Moscow to have vape cartridges with cannabis.

Another American, Paul Whelan, has been held by Russia for five years. The U.S. denied Russian charges that the former U.S. Marine was a spy.

Last March, Russia arrested Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges that the U.S. said were false. Last week, a Moscow court rejected an appeal by Gershkovich.


Share this news on your Fb,Twitter and Whatsapp

File source

Times News Network:Latest News Headlines
Times News Network||Health||New York||USA News||Technology||World News

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button