Russia Arrests US Citizen on Treason Charges for Donating to Ukrainian Charity

( – A woman with dual Russian-American citizenship recently found herself behind bars in her country of origin on treason charges. Her crime, according to attorneys, is the roughly $50 donation she made to a Ukrainian charity. Officials arrested her in Yekaterinburg after she returned to Russia to visit family.

“Illegal” Activities

Russian officials issued a press release on February 20 stating that they arrested a 33-year-old Los Angeles resident for allegedly “providing financial assistance” to an enemy country. They claim the person, who has citizenship in both Russia and the United States, acted against Russian security interests.

The document alleges that the suspect began her activity in February 2022, which officials say helped fund tactical equipment, ammunition, weapons, and medicine for Ukrainian troops. It adds that the person’s activities while in the United States included repeated efforts to support Kyiv’s defense.

The Federal Security Service of Russia for the Sverdlovsk Region, based on the evidence its officers have reportedly collected, decided to move forward under Article 275 of the Criminal Code of Russia — treason. Authorities are keeping their suspect in custody while they conduct searches of the person’s activities and complete other parts of their investigation.

NBC News shares that the individual in question is a young woman named Ksenia Karelina, adding that she is a ballerina who gained her US citizenship in 2021. The woman’s coworkers reportedly claim that her so-called treasonable offense was a $51.80 donation she made to an organization that sends aid to Ukraine. A Russian lawyer familiar with the case confirmed that she sent the money, adding that the recipient was a New York-based charity called Razom.

Karelina faces 20 years in prison if convicted of her alleged crimes.

The Kremlin’s Wrath

The New York Times writes that the arrests of Americans in Russia appear to be a strategic move to gain leverage over foreign prisoners in Western custody. The Kremlin reportedly sees them as potential bargaining chips, using the individuals in hopes of gaining back high-profile players lost to the United States and allied countries.

The Kremlin has been attempting to use two other American citizens it has in custody, Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, as trades for Russian agents in its most recent discussions. US officials insist Russia wrongfully arrested Gershkovich and Whelan — both journalists — but the Kremlin claims both committed espionage against their country.

A previous prisoner swap brought home former US Marine Trevor Reed in April 2022, and another freed women’s basketball player Brittney Griner in December that same year.

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