Russia detains Los Angeles ballerina ‘on suspicion of treason’

World

Russian authorities have detained a ballerina from Los Angeles who they say is suspected of treason, over claims she took part in fundraising for Ukraine.

Kseniya Karelina, a Russian-American ballerina, is being held by Russia, a senior US official told to Sky News’ US partner NBC News.

The 33-year-old became a US citizen in 2021, the US official said.

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said the woman, who it did not name, had been “involved in providing financial assistance to a foreign state in activities directed against the security of our country,” since 2022.

She collected money that was spent on medicine, equipment, weapons and ammunition in the Ukrainian war effort, the statement said.

Treason is punishable in Russia by up to 20 years in prison. Ms Karelina is currently detained under a pre-trial custody order.

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The White House said it was aware of the reported arrest and was seeking more information.

Ms Karelina entered Russia on 2 January and the US learned on 8 February that she had been arrested, a US official told NBC News.

Razom for Ukraine, an American charity that says it provides “humanitarian aid, disaster relief, education and advocacy” in Ukraine, said it was “appalled” by reports of the arrest.

Ms Karelina reportedly made a donation to the charity after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the charity told NBC it did not share information about its donors.

Footage shared by Russian state-owned news agency Ria Novosti showed officials handcuffing a woman whose face was obscured by a hat pulled over her eyes and escorting her to what appeared to be a courtroom holding cell.

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National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters he could not comment much on the case, but that it was dangerous for US citizens or dual citizens to be in Russia.

“If you’re a US citizen, including a dual national, residing in or travelling in Russia, you ought to leave right now if you can,” Mr Kirby said. “Just depart immediately.”

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at a briefing on Tuesday that the US was seeking consular assistance, but it had not yet been granted.

As Russia does not recognise dual citizenship and “considers them to be Russian citizens first and foremost”, securing consular assistance could be difficult, he said.

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