Russian-American Faces Treason Charges for Donating Funds to Ukraine

Written by Camilla Jessen

Jun.20 - 2024 1:35 PM CET

Photo: Screenshot
Photo: Screenshot
A Russian-American woman faces serious charges in Russia after being accused of raising money for the Ukrainian army.

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A Russian-American woman, Karelina, went on trial for alleged treason on Thursday after authorities accused her of raising money for the Ukrainian army.

Karelina, who was born in Russia and later moved to the United States, now faces a sentence of 12 years to life in prison if found guilty.

Background and Arrest

Karelina, an aesthetician at a Los Angeles spa, was arrested earlier this year while visiting her family in Russia.

According to Reuters, the trial was held behind closed doors in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, which is customary for such cases in Russia, where treason acquittals are rare.

The court released a short video showing Karelina in a glass cage, wearing jeans and a green plaid shirt, smiling faintly as reporters took photos.

Later, the court announced that the trial had been adjourned until August 7, without providing a reason.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) detained Karelina in January while she was visiting her parents and younger sister.

Initially arrested under a minor "petty hooliganism" statute, Karelina was later charged with treason.

Her former mother-in-law, Eleonora Srebroski, told Reuters that Karelina had traveled to Russia around New Year's after her boyfriend surprised her with a plane ticket. Karelina had assured him that Russia was "safe."

The charges stem from Karelina's donation to Razom for Ukraine, a New York-based nonprofit that sends non-military assistance to Ukraine. Despite her donation being small, Russian authorities have treated it as a significant act of treason.

Personal Life

Karelina, in her early thirties, moved to the U.S. in 2012 via a work-study program and was briefly married to Srebroski's son.

Her ex-husband described her as a fun-loving woman uninterested in politics.

Her social media profiles show photos of her enjoying life with friends, without any political messages. One notable photo from November 2021 shows her in a long dress, waving a small American flag with the caption, "Citizenship."

At least a dozen Americans are currently jailed in Russia, part of a growing number of foreign nationals caught in the strained relations between Moscow and Washington during the Ukraine war.