LA woman detained in Russia on suspicion of treason for giving funds to Ukraine

By Isaac M February 20, 2024

An LA woman has been detained in Russia on suspicion of treason for giving funds to Ukraine, according to Russia’s FSB security services.

The woman, a 33-year-old dual American-Russian citizen, was not identified in a statement issued by the FSB, which said she “was involved in providing financial assistance to a foreign state in activities directed against the security of our country.”

The FSB in the central Urals city of Yekaterinburg accused her of taking part in pro-Ukraine protests outside of Russia and of sending aid to Kyiv.

It said the woman had been “proactively collecting funds… which were subsequently used to purchase tactical medical items, equipment, means of destruction and ammunition for the Ukrainian armed forces.”

Perviy Otdel, also known as the First Department, a collective of lawyers dealing with cases of alleged treason and espionage in Russia, and independent Russian outlet Mediazona, identified the woman as Ksenia Khavana.

The First Department added that Ms Khavana was detained on charges of treason on the day of president Putin’s interview with American journalist Tucker Carlson, after she was accused of transferring the amount of $51.80 from her American bank account to the account of Razom for Ukraine, a New York-based non-profit group, on 24 February 2022, the same day Mr Putin ordered the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The treason charges came after she was first arrested in late January outside a cinema in Ekaterinburg, the largest city in Russia’s central Ural region, on charges of violating public order and sentenced to 14 days in detention, according to Perviy Otdel.

A screengrab from a video aired on Feb. 20, 2024 by Russia’s state-run broadcaster RU24 shows an LA woman being arrested and taken to court in Russia

(RU24)

It is unclear how long the woman has lived in the US or why she returned to Russia, however, the Financial Times reported that Ms Khavana studied in Yekaterinburg before moving to the US, where she became a citizen in 2021 and had worked as a spa manager in Beverly Hills.

The FSB published a video of a woman in a white coat with a white hat pulled down over her eyes being led by a masked security agent down several flights in a building in Yekaterinburg before she was handcuffed, placed in a car and taken into a courtroom.

The woman, whose face is blurred, is then seen standing in a metal cage in court.

A court proceeding in the case took place Monday, Russian media reported.

Her arrest came just four days before the two-year mark of Russia’s ongoing, full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and follows that of American journalist Evan Gershkovich, a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, who was arrested on espionage charges in March.

He and his employer, as well as the State Department have denied the charges.

Former US Marine Paul Whelan has also been detained in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges.

Secretary of state Antony Blinken said last week that he had spoken on the phone with Whelan, whom, along with Gershkovich, the US has deemed to be wrongfully detained by Russia.

“Our intensive efforts to bring Paul home continue every single day, and they will until he and Evan Gershkovich and every other American wrongfully detained is back with their loved ones,” Blinken said after the call.

A third dual American-Russian citizen, Alsu Kurmasheva, is also being held in pre-trial detention.

US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, looks out from inside a defendants’ cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his extended pre-trial detention, at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on 20 February, 2024

(AFP via Getty Images)

The Prague-based editor with Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe was arrested in October after traveling to her family’s home in Russia’s Tatarstan region for a family emergency.

She was charged with failing to register as a foreign agent.

Treason charges in Russia are punishable by up to life in prison under legislation toughened since the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is currently under fire for the unexplained death of the country’s opposition leader Alexei Navalny in an Arctic Circle prison, has previously been accused of using dual American-Russian citizens as bargaining chips to release Russians imprisoned in the US.

In 2022, WNBA star Brittney Griner was released from prison in Russia after she was exchanged for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, who had been jailed for years in the US.

Earlier this month, Mr Putin said he was ready to hold negotiations over a prisoner exchange that could see the release of Mr Gershkovich.

President Putin dangled the prospect of releasing Mr Gershkovich in exchange for the Russian agent and FSB assassin Vadim Krasikov, who is currently in prison in Germany after killing a Georgian military officer in a Berlin park in 2019.

A Moscow city court rejected the latest appeal for Mr Gershkovich’s release on Tuesday.

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