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Russia Arrests Dual U.S. Citizen on Accusations of Treason

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Russia’s FSB securities services have detained a Los Angeles resident with U.S. and Russian dual nationality on charges of treason, state media TASS said Tuesday.  

The 33-year-old woman was identified as Ksenia Karelina by the independent Russian news outlet MediaZona. Perviy Otdel, a group of Russian lawyers who specialize in cases involving alleged treason, identified her as Ksenia (Karelina) Khavana.

Perviy Otdel said the woman has been accused of sending just over $50 to Razom for Ukraine, a nonprofit in New York that sends assistance to Ukraine, the New York Times reported.

She was arrested in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg over allegations that she “used to purchase tactical medical items, equipment, means of destruction and ammunition for the Ukrainian armed forces,” the FSB said in a statement, according to CBS.

Video footage shared by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti showed the woman wearing a white coat and hat as she was being handcuffed. 

Treason can carry a life sentence in Russia, after President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in April that increased the maximum sentence from up to 20 years. 

In 2023, Russia opened 70 treason cases for treason, according to a report by Perviy Otdel. Defendants were found guilty in 37 of these cases. 

Several U.S. nationals are currently being held in Russian jails. Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was arrested on charges of espionage in March, saw his latest appeal denied on Tuesday by a Russian court. The U.S. government has deemed Gershkovich as wrongfully detained.

Another journalist, Alsu Kurmasheva, a dual U.S.-Russian national, is currently being held in pre-trial detention for allegedly violating a law on “foreign agents.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Kurmasheva’s employer, has said her arrest is politically motivated.

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan has also been in prison in Russia since 2018, serving a 16-year sentence on espionage charges. The U.S. government considers Whelan wrongfully detained.

The woman’s arrest could increase pressure on President Joe Biden to pursue a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia. In a controversial interview earlier this month with Tucker Carlson, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was open to such deals.

In 2022, the U.S. and Russia carried out a prisoner swap to facilitate the release of high profile WNBA star Brittney Griner in exchange for convicted arms dealers Viktor Bout. Bout had been serving a 25 years prison sentence since 2012.

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