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Russian-American woman detained for treason said Russia was 'safe' before trip there
Russian-American woman detained for treason said Russia was 'safe' before trip there
Russian-American woman detained for treason said Russia was 'safe' before trip there
by DZRH News01 March 2024
A portrait of Ksenia Karelina with her former in-laws and ex-husband in Maryland, U.S, December 13, 2015. Eleonora Srebroski /Handout via REUTERS

By Lucy Papachristou

LONDON (Reuters) - A Russian-American detained in Russia on a treason charge carrying up to 20 years in prison told her boyfriend "it's safe there" before she travelled to see relatives in Yekaterinburg, the woman's former mother-in-law said.

A Russian court on Thursday rejected an appeal by Ksenia Karelina, a 32-year-old resident of Los Angeles, who was detained by the FSB security service on suspicion of raising funds for Ukraine's armed forces.

Karelina's lawyer had asked the court to lift her detention and replace it with house arrest, state news agency RIA said.


The U.S. embassy in Moscow was aware of the reports but could not comment further due to privacy restrictions, a spokesperson told Reuters.

A Russian lawyers' group, Pervy Otdel, said it had information that Karelina had donated just over $50 from her U.S. bank account on Feb. 24, 2022 - the day that Russia launched what it calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine - to a charity that sends aid to Ukraine.

Her former mother in law, Eleonora Srebroski, told Reuters by phone from Maryland that Karelina had made a small donation to Razom for Ukraine, a New York-based nonprofit that sends assistance to the country.

Razom said in a statement earlier this month that it was "appalled" by Karelina's arrest and that its activities focused on "humanitarian aid, disaster relief, education and advocacy."


Srebroski said that Karelina, who has been a U.S. citizen since 2021, had decided to go to Yekaterinburg in January for a family visit after her boyfriend surprised her with a plane ticket while they were vacationing in Turkey.

"I am Russian, I love Russia, there is nothing wrong in Yekaterinburg, it's safe there," Srebroski said was how Karelina assured her boyfriend.

Srebroski, who described Karelina as caring, sweet and "even more beautiful on the inside," said her former daughter-in-law arrived in the United States in 2012 via a work-study program in Maryland, where she met her son and the two got married in 2013.

Karelina's ex-husband Yevgeny Khavana, said they split few years later and she moved to California, drawn by the warm weather and opportunities to resume practising ballet, which she had done in her youth.


Her current employer, Ciel Spa in Beverly Hills, California, identified her as an aesthetician in an Instagram post demanding her release, saying "to know Ksenia is to love her."

Karelina had regularly travelled to Russia to see her family, including her grandparents and a young sister, Srebroski said, but stopped after January 2021 as Western-imposed sanctions made flights to Russia too expensive and onerous.

Khavana said he was shocked by Karelina's arrest.

"She is really not into politics at all," he told Reuters. "She wasn't on someone's side in this war. She was against killing, pretty much, on either side."


Karelina's page on VKontakte, Russia's answer to Facebook, features photos of herself and friends on the beach and on trips, but no political messaging.

"I don't know why she went back," Srebroski said. "Russian authorities are killing their own people."

(Reporting and writing by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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