Feb 22, 2024 - World

American Ksenia Karelina detained while visiting family in Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Contributor/Getty Images

The Los Angeles woman who was detained in Russia is 33-year-old Ksenia Karelina, an esthetician and former ballerina, multiple outlets reported.

Why it matters: Karelina — who has dual U.S.-Russian citizenship — is the latest American to be detained in the country. Authorities arrested and charged her with treason for allegedly providing financial support to Ukraine.

  • In a statement this week, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) did not publicly identified Karelina. They accused her of "providing financial assistance to a foreign state, thus conducting activities against the security of our country."
  • The Beverly Hills hotel spa where Karelina works said in a Facebook post that she had been arrested for allegedly donating $51.80 to a Ukrainian charity in the U.S.

Driving the news: Karelina's boyfriend, Chris van Heerden, told CNN Wednesday that she had traveled to her hometown of Yekaterinburg in early January to visit family.

  • It had been several years since Karelina had been back to Russia but she was not worried about going, he said.
  • "She was like, 'I'm going to be fine, it's good. I'm Russian, I'm good,'" Van Heerden said during an appearance on NBC News Wednesday.

Zoom in: Upon arriving in Russia in early January, Karelina was detained at the airport. She was eventually released but authorities kept her mobile phone, per NBC News.

  • Several weeks later, just before she was due to return to the U.S., Karelina told Van Heerden that authorities had told her she was allowed to leave the country and could come pick up her phone. It was their last conversation, he told CNN.

The U.S. State Department declined to confirm Karelina's identity in response to a request from Axios.

  • A spokesman said earlier this week that the department was aware that Russia had detained an American. The spokesman said the U.S. was seeking consular assistance, though it had not yet been granted.

Go deeper: Russian court rejects WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich's latest appeal

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