Russia Arrests Los Angeles Woman for Allegedly Raising Money for Ukraine

The 33-year-old woman is a dual citizen of Russia and the United States.
Russia Arrests Los Angeles Woman for Allegedly Raising Money for Ukraine
A police car goes past the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor agency to the KGB, and Lubyanka Square in front of it in central Moscow on March 3, 2023. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images)
Bill Pan
2/20/2024
Updated:
2/20/2024
0:00

A Los Angeles resident with U.S. and Russian dual citizenship has been arrested in Russia on charges of treason for raising funds to support Ukraine’s war effort, Russian state media said.

The woman was detained by Russian authorities in Yekaterinburg on the eastern slopes of the Urals, the same Siberian city where Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested in March 2023 on espionage charges.

“The Federal Security Service in Yekaterinburg has interdicted the illegal activities of a 33-year-old resident of Los Angeles, who has dual citizenship of Russia and the United States, involved in providing financial assistance to a foreign state [Ukraine], thus conducting activities against the security of our country,” the Russian intelligence agency said in a statement to TASS.

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) accused the woman of “proactively collecting funds” for an unnamed Ukrainian organization since February 2022, when the Russian-Ukrainian conflict escalated into a full-scale war. The money was “subsequently directed by the Ukrainian armed forces toward the acquisition of tactical medical items, equipment and ammunition,” the agency told TASS.

The woman is also accused of participating in pro-Ukrainian activism in public in the United States. The Russian FSB said she now faces charges under Article 275 of Russia’s Criminal Code, which pertains to high treason, while “operational search” and “investigative actions” proceed.

Alleged Treason

In April 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree making life imprisonment a potential penalty for treason. Previously, the maximum sentence on this charge was 20 years in prison.
The TASS report did not reveal the woman’s identity. Anti-Putin news site MediaZona identified her as Ksenia Karelina, and claimed that she’s specifically accused of transferring $51.80 from an American bank account to Razom for Ukraine, a New York City-based group that raises money for the Ukrainian cause.
Perviy Otdel, a group of Russian lawyers and human rights activists, identified the woman as Ksenia Khavana (Karelina), The New York Times reported.

The woman’s arrest comes as a Moscow court rejected Mr. Gershkovich’s appeal against an earlier decision to extend his pretrial detention by two months. This means he will remain in the Russian FSB’s custody until at least March 30, over a year since his arrest.

“Evan Gershkovich appeared in the Moscow City Court today, where an appeal of his wrongful detention was denied once again,” The Wall Street Journal said in a statement on Tuesday, vehemently denying the Russian allegation that its employee is a spy.

“It’s been nearly one year since Evan’s unjust arrest for doing nothing more than his job, and every day he remains in prison is an unconscionable attack on a free press,” the newspaper continued. “Evan is a journalist, and any suggestion or portrayal otherwise is fiction. We continue to demand his immediate release.”

Washington has called on Moscow for Mr. Gershkovich’s immediate release, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken declaring him to be “wrongfully detained.”

“Journalism is not a crime,” Mr. Blinken said last year. “We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia, and its ongoing war against the truth.”

Prisoner Exchange

In a Feb. 9 interview with former Fox News host and now independent journalist Tucker Carlson, Mr. Putin declined a request to release Mr. Gershkovich as a goodwill gesture. Instead, he hinted that Mr. Gershkovich may be freed if Washington is willing to “take reciprocal steps” and release a “patriot” who “eliminated a bandit in one of the European capitals ... during the events in the Caucasus.”

Mr. Putin was likely referring to Vadim Krasikov, a Russian FSB agent who was sentenced in Germany to life imprisonment in 2021 after shooting and killing Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Chechen war veteran and dissident, in a Berlin park in 2019.

“I also want him to return to his homeland, at last. I’m absolutely sincere,” Mr. Putin told Mr. Carlson. “But let me say once again: The dialogue continues. The more public we render these things of this nature, the more difficult it becomes to resolve them. Everything has to be done in a calm manner.”

Mr. Gershkovich is not the only American journalist currently held by Russia.

Alsu Kurmasheva, who holds dual U.S.-Russian citizenship and works for Prague-based Radio Free Europe, was arrested in October in Kazan and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent, Radio Free Europe reported. She is also accused of violating censorship laws regarding information about Russia’s military.