Russian-American Woman Goes on Trial for Treason After Donating Funds to Ukraine

By Reuters
June 20, 2024Europe
Russian-American Woman Goes on Trial for Treason After Donating Funds to Ukraine
Ksenia Karelina attends a court hearing in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on June 20, 2024, in this still image taken from video. (Press Service of the Sverdlovsk Regional Court/Handout via Reuters)

LONDON—A Russian-American woman arrested earlier this year while visiting family in Russia went on trial for alleged treason on Thursday after authorities accused her of raising money to send to the Ukrainian army.

Ksenia Karelina, who was born in Russia but had built a new life as an aesthetician at a Los Angeles spa after immigrating to the United States over a decade ago, faces a sentence of 12 years to life in prison if found guilty.

Her trial will be held behind closed doors, as is customary in such cases in Russia. Treason acquittals are rare there.

The court in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg published a short video of Ms. Karelina sitting in a glass cage, wearing jeans, and a green plaid shirt. She smiled faintly as reporters snapped photographs.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) detained Ms. Karelina in January while she was visiting her parents and young sister in Yekaterinburg.

Her former mother-in-law, Eleonora Srebroski, told Reuters in February that Ms. Karelina had travelled home around the New Year after her boyfriend surprised her with a plane ticket.

Initially arrested under a minor “petty hooliganism” statute, Ms. Karelina was later charged with treason.

Ms. Srebroski said Ms. Karelina had made a small donation to Razom for Ukraine, a New York-based nonprofit that sends non-military assistance to the country.

Ms. Karelina, who is in her early thirties, arrived in the U.S. in 2012 via a work-study program and was briefly married to Ms. Srebroski’s son. Her ex-husband has described her as a fun-loving woman who didn’t care much for politics.

Ms. Karelina’s social media profiles feature photos of herself and friends on the beach and on trips, but without political messaging.