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Update: US citizen arrested in Russia reportedly identified, faces up to 20 years in prison

by Nate Ostiller February 21, 2024 6:48 PM 2 min read
Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Aug. 19, 2017. Photo for illustrative purposes. (Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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The U.S. citizen arrested in Russia on treason charges for allegedly raising money for Ukraine's army has reportedly been identified as 33-year-old Ksenia (Karelina) Khavana, a resident of Los Angeles, the independent Russian media outlet Mediazona reported on Feb. 20.

The Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported earlier on Feb. 20, citing the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), that a woman with U.S. and Russian citizenship was arrested in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on treason charges.

The case reportedly centers around a $51 donation that Khavana is accused of making to the U.S.-based Razom for Ukraine charity group on the day that Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.

Razom for Ukraine said on Feb. 20 that it was "appalled by reports that a U.S.-Russian dual national has been arrested by Russian authorities for purportedly making a charitable donation" to the organization.

The spa Khavana allegedly worked for in Los Angeles released an Instagram statement saying that she had traveled back to Russia to visit her 90-year-old grandmother, parents, and younger sister.

"Ksenia Khavana has been wrongly accused, arrested, and (is) currently being held in the Russian prison system," the statement read.

If convicted, she could potentially face 20 years in prison.

According to her purported profile on the social media platform VK, Khavana received her U.S. citizenship in 2021 after first coming to the country on a work and study program.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller was asked about the case in a press conference on Feb. 20 but did not confirm Khavana by name.

"With respect to this most recent detention, we are aware of the case. We are seeking consular assistance that has not yet been granted," Miller said.

"Russia – when it comes to dual citizens of the United States and Russia or dual citizenship of any other country and Russia, Russia does not recognize dual citizenship; considers them to be Russian citizens first and foremost," he added.

Several other U.S. citizens are being held in Russia. Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained in Yekaterinburg in March 2023 on espionage charges, which he denies.

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020, also for alleged espionage, an accusation he rejects.

Alsu Kurmasheva, a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist with dual American and Russian citizenship, was arrested in Russia in October 2023 for allegedly violating Russia's law on foreign agents. She is currently being held in pre-trial detention, which has repeatedly been extended.  

Moscow has previously rejected deals to swap Whelan and Gershkovich with Washington. WNBA star Brittney Griner and another Marine veteran, Trevor Reed, were exchanged for Russian prisoners in the U.S. in 2022.

Moscow rejects ‘substantial’ deal to free detained American journalist and marine
The White House on Dec. 5 revealed Moscow rejected a a substantial deal aimed at freeing journalist Evan Gershkovich and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.
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