Skip to content

Image by iStock

Russian-U.S. Dual Citizen Detained in Russia on State Treason Charges

Russian security forces arrested a dual U.S.-Russian citizen on accusations that she committed state treason by raising funds for Ukraine.

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) identified the detainee as a 33-year-old woman who lives in Los Angeles, California, and she allegedly donated just more than $50 to Razom for Ukraine, a New York-based nonprofit organization that sends assistance to the country, The New York Times reported.Security forces also accused her of attending pro-Ukraine rallies in the United States. 

The woman, named in U.S. media as spa aesthetician and amateur ballerina Ksenia Karelina, obtained U.S. citizenship in 2021. She traveled home to Russia in early 2024 to visit her family.

The FSB claimed—without providing detail or evidence—that the detainee had been collecting money for the Ukrainian military since February 2022, and that the funds had been used to purchase medical supplies, equipment, weapons, and ammunition, the BBC reported.

Razom for Ukraine said it was “appalled” by the reports of the arrest over the alleged donation, emphasizing its mission and legal obligations as a charitable organization focused on humanitarian aid.

The arrest comes amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent in Russia. In April 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree increasing the maximum sentence for treason from 20 years to life in jail. The definitions of treason and “international terrorism” under the decree were unclear. The number of state treason cases in Russia has grown steadily since the country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago. In 2023, about 50 people were accused of state treason, ranging from high-profile critics of the Kremlin to a student who was accused of photographing Russian Army formations, according to the Times.

U.S. State Department officials recently warned that Russia generally disregards dual citizenship, considering such individuals to first and foremost be Russian citizens, the Times reported. In a recent press briefing, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby declined to comment specifically on this case, but he did add that the White House and State Department were trying to “secure some consular access to that individual.”

He also said, “I want to reiterate our very strong warnings about the danger posed to U.S. citizens inside Russia. So if you’re a U.S. citizen, including a dual national, residing in or traveling in Russia, you ought to leave right now if you can. Just depart immediately.”

The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for Russia last year that warns travelers of the risk of wrongful detention, explaining that “Russian security services have arrested U.S. citizens on spurious charges, singled out U.S. citizens in Russia for detention and harassment, denied them fair and transparent treatment, and convicted them in secret trials or without presenting credible evidence.”

For more about the risk of wrongful detention and how to protect business travelers, read Security Management’s 2023 coverage here.