Russia arrests dual US citizen, accusing her of aiding Ukraine

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Russia's main domestic intelligence agency reported on Tuesday that it had arrested a dual citizen of the United States and Russia on charges of treason, accusing her of collecting funds for Ukrainian organizations and supporting Kyiv.

The woman, whom the Federal Security Service (FSB) only identified as a 33-year-old resident of Los Angeles, was arrested in the city of Yekaterinburg in central Russia for "providing financial assistance to a foreign state in activities directed against the security" of the country, the agency said in a statement.

"Since February 2022, she has proactively collected funds in the interests of one of the Ukrainian organizations, which were subsequently used to purchase tactical medicine, equipment, weapons and ammunition by the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” the FSB said.

The independent news outlet MediaZona identified the woman as Ksenia Karelina and said she had received U.S. citizenship after marrying an American. The FSB also alleged that Karelina "repeatedly took part in public actions in support of the Kyiv regime" while she lived in the United States.

Karelina is accused of treason under Article 275 of the Criminal Code of Russia, which is punishable by 12 to 20 years in prison. Russian authorities placed Karelina in pre-trial detention, The Moscow Times reported.

The announcement came just days before the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has devastated the eastern European country as attacks have displaced millions and buried cities in rubble. Moscow has detained several Americans in recent years, using them in prisoner exchanges amid the war and increased tensions between the United States and Russia.

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Ksenia Karelina donated just over $50 to nonprofit organization

According to Russian legal rights group Perviy Otdel, Karelina had donated $51.80 to Razom for Ukraine, a nonprofit organization in New York that sends assistance to Ukraine, The New York Times reported. In a statement Tuesday, the nonprofit said it was "appalled" by reports of Karelina's arrest.

“Our activities, which are in keeping with our charitable purpose and our legal obligations as an American charitable organization, are focused on humanitarian aid, disaster relief, education and advocacy,” Razom for Ukraine CEO Dora Chomiak said in the statement.

Videos shared by state-run news agencies showed FSB agents escorting Karelina, who was handcuffed and blindfolded, from an apartment building to a courtroom, according to The Moscow Times. She has been placed in pre-trial detention.

Russia 'does not recognize dual citizenship'

White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters Tuesday that the White House and the State Department were aware of reports of the arrest of a dual U.S.-Russia citizen. He did not identify the woman but said officials "are trying to get more information and to secure some consular access to that individual.”

Kirby added that it is dangerous for U.S. citizens to be inside Russia. “If you’re a U.S. citizen, including a dual national residing in or traveling in Russia, you ought to leave right now," he said.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller also said Tuesday that when it comes to dual U.S.-Russia citizens, Moscow "does not recognize dual citizenship, it considers them to be Russian citizens first and foremost."

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Americans detained in Russia in recent years

Several U.S. citizens have been held in Russian jails in recent years. Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges last March in Yekaterinburg.

On Tuesday, the Moscow City Court rejected an appeal against Gershkovich’s detention filed by his lawyers, upholding an earlier ruling to keep him detained until the end of March. Gershkovich and the Journal have denied the espionage allegations, and the U.S. government has declared him to be wrongfully detained.

Alsu Kurmasheva, a Russian-American journalist and an editor with Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was detained in October for failing to register as a foreign agent. RFE/RL, a media organization funded by the U.S. government, has said her arrest signaled a "new level of wartime censorship."

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan was arrested in December 2018 and has been serving a 16-year sentence on espionage charges. The Biden administration has deemed Whelan as wrongfully detained for more than five years.

WNBA star Brittney Griner was detained for almost 10 months in Russia and had been part of a high-profile in prisoner swap in 2022. Viktor Bout, a notorious Russian gun dealer who had been serving a 25-year prison sentence, was released from a U.S. prison in exchange for Griner.

Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard and John Bacon, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Russia accuses dual US citizen of treason for aiding Ukraine in war