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American ballerina detained in Russia for donating $51.80 to Ukraine’s war effort

Rebecca Barnabi
(© harvepino – stock.adobe.com)

A ballerina who lives in California but has dual citizenship in Russia was detained in Russia for donating $51.80 to the United States’ Ukrainian charity Razom for Ukraine in February 2022.

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said Tuesday in a statement that 33-year-old Kseniya Karelina of Los Angeles was arrested for “repeatedly taking part in public actions in support of the Kyiv regime.”

“Since February 2022, she has proactively collected funds in the interests of a Ukrainian organization, which were subsequently used to purchase tactical medicine, equipment, weapons and ammunition for the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” the FSB statement said.

A senior U.S. official told NBC News that Karelina obtained U.S. citizenship in 2021. She faces up to 20 years in a Russian prison if she is convicted.

A statement from Razom on Tuesday states that the organization is “appalled” and is “focused on humanitarian aid, disaster relief, education and advocacy.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, other American nationals have been detained in Russia.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, 32, was arrested for espionage in March 2023 and accused by the FSB of “trying to obtain secret information.” FSB alleges he was acting “on the instructions of the United States.” Gershkovich’s latest appeal was rejected in court yesterday and he remains in jail until at least March 30, 2024.

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner was detained at a Moscow airport in mid-February 2022 after a vape cartridge containing cannabis oil was found in her luggage. Although she had an American doctor’s recommendation for the medication, she was arrested and sentenced August 4, 2022, to serve nine years in a Russian penal colony. An appeal in late October 2022 was denied.

Griner traveled in Russia because she played for the UMMC Ekaterinburg in Yekaterinburg, the third largest city in Russia, during off seasons.

She was released in mid-December 2022 as part of a prisoner exchange where “Merchant of Death” arms dealer Viktor Bout was returned to Russia after serving 10 years of a 20-year sentence in the U.S.

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The prisoner exchange and the backlash: WNBA star Brittney Griner’s return to U.S. – Augusta Free Press

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.