Russia court rejects appeal by Russian-American woman accused of treason News
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Russia court rejects appeal by Russian-American woman accused of treason

A Russian court on Thursday rejected an appeal by a Russian-American woman against her detention on a treason charge, according to Reuters and ABC News reporters in the room. The 33-year-old Ksenia Karelina was arrested on January 27 and detained in a jail in Yekaterinburg for treason.

According to Reuters, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) reported last week that Karelina had been detained on suspicion of raising funds for a Ukrainian charity to support Ukraine’s armed forces. A group of Russian lawyers, Pervy Otdel, also indicated that Karelina had donated over $50 from her US bank account on the day that Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

The appeal for the arrest was scheduled for a hearing on February 20 but was later postponed to February 29 due to the absence of her lawyer. Karelina’s lawyer had asked the court to lift her detention and replace it with house arrest. However, the Sverdlovsk Regional Court extended her pre-trial detention until April 6.

Article 275 of the Russian criminal code stipulates the charge for high treason. High treason includes rendering assistance to a foreign state or organization in hostile activities to the detriment of the external security of the Russian Federation, committed by a citizen of Russia. It is punishable by imprisonment for a term of 12 to 20 years with or without a fine. Karelina, who has dual citizenship of Russia and the US, may risk spending 20 years in jail.

In response to Karelina’s arrest, the White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby last week on a press briefing  advised US citizens, including a dual nationals residing in or traveling in Russia, to depart immediately. He also urged US citizens with US passports and planning to travel to Russia not to do that due to the danger posed to US citizens inside Russia. US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller also said diplomats at the US Embassy in Moscow were working to learn more and gain access to Karelina. 

Speaking to ABC News, the Karelina’s boyfriend Chris Van Herdeen said he had received a letter from her on Tuesday. In a campaign for Karelina’s freedom, Van Herdeen posted a message on X (formerly Twitter) saying, “My mission is to liberate KSENIA, my beloved woman, from the clutches of Russia and bring her back to the embrace of the United States.”