Russia arrests American dual citizen over $51 donation to Ukraine

Ksenia Karelina, a 33-year-old woman who lives in Los Angeles, was arrested in Russia for treason for donating to a Ukrainian charity in the U.S.
Ksenia Karelina
Posted at 3:34 PM, Feb 21, 2024

A Russian-American dual citizen was arrested in Russia over a $51 donation to Ukraine.

Ksenia Karelina, a 33-year-old woman who lives in Los Angeles, was arrested on charges of treason for what Russia’s Federal Security Service described as “providing financial assistance to a foreign state in activities directed against Russia security,” according to CNN.

A statement put out by Karelina’s employer, a spa located at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, said she had donated the money to a Ukrainian charity in the U.S.

“Ciel Spa management and team is devastated to share that our beloved esthetician and friend, Ksenia Khavana has been wrongly accused, arrested and currently being held in the Russian prison system,” the spa said on Instagram.

“Ksenia, a dual citizen, went to Russia to visit her 90-year-old grandmother, parents and younger sister. She has been accused of treason for allegedly donating $51.80 to a Ukrainian charity in the U.S.,” the statement said. “To know Ksenia is to love her and this heartbreaking news is so difficult to share but it must be done to spread her story and seek justice.”

Video shared by Russian state media shows a woman with a beanie pulled over her head being handcuffed and walked through a jail.

An official told CNN Karelina, who is a ballerina, became an American citizen in 2021 and had entered Russia on Jan. 2. The U.S. learned of her arrest on Jan. 8.

In a press briefing, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said the U.S. is aware of Karelina’s detention and has not yet been granted consular access to her. 

“Russia does not recognize dual citizenship — considers them to be Russian citizens first and foremost — and so, oftentimes, we have a difficult time getting consular assistance, but we will pursue it in all matters where a U.S. citizen is detained,” Miller said. 

Razom, the Ukrainian charity Karelina donated to, said in a statement that it is “appalled” by the situation. 

"Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly shown that he holds no sovereign border, foreign nationality, or international treaty above his own narrow interest. His regime attacks civil society activists who stand up for freedom and democracy,” Razom said in its statement. 

Razom said hundreds of thousands of people around the world have donated to its organization. 

Treason can carry a life sentence in Russia, according to Time Magazine