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US- Russian citizen’s appeal against treason charge rejected

The Russian flag. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A court in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on February 29 rejected an appeal filed by Russian-American Ksenia Karelina (aka Khavana) against her arrest on a treason charge.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said last week that a woman holding both U.S. and Russian citizenship was arrested in Yekaterinburg on suspicion of treason after she was accused of raising funds for Ukraine’s military.

According to the FSB, it “suppressed the illegal activities of a 33-year-old resident of Los Angeles, who has dual citizenship of Russia and the United States, and was involved in providing financial assistance to a foreign state in activities directed against the security of our country.”

The FSB did not name the woman, while Russian media reports identified her as both Ksenia Karelina and Ksenia Khavana, her married name.

The rights group Pervy Otdel says Karelina allegedly transferred $51.80 from her U.S.-based bank account to the Razom for Ukraine foundation, which helps Ukrainian civilians. It says its only military-oriented program is one that purchases medical kits for nurses on the front line in the ongoing war with Russia.

Washington has repeatedly criticized Russia for targeting and arresting U.S. citizens accusing Moscow of detaining them with the aim of exchanging them for Russian nationals being held in U.S. prisons.

In late March last year, the FSB in Yekaterinburg arrested U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges.

Another U.S. citizen, former Marine Paul Whelan, is also held in Russia on espionage charges. Gershkovich, Whelan, and the U.S. government reject the charges as politically motivated.

While Gershkovich is still in pretrial detention, Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison in June 2020.

A third U.S. citizen, RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, who also holds Russian citizenship, has been in pretrial detention on a charge of violating the so-called “foreign agent” law. The U.S. government and her employer say the charge is in reprisal for her work.

Indictments for treason reached a record number in Russia last year. According to official data, the courts have received 63 treason cases, 33 of which have already resulted in convictions.

Human rights activists say they expect the number will be even higher this year as Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine reached the two-year mark on February 24.