Russia arrests a US-Russian dual citizen on treason charges

Russia arrests a US-Russian dual citizen on treason charges
Russia arrests a US-Russian dual citizen on treason charges / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews February 21, 2024

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has detained Ksenia Khavana, a 33-year old dual Russian and US citizen, on charges of treason for donating $50 to a Ukrainian charity on the day the war in Ukraine began.

Khavana was arrested in Yekaterinburg, where she was born and was visiting from her home in Los Angeles, where she now lives with her US husband.

A video released by Russian state media depicted the arrest, showing the woman, hooded and handcuffed, being led away by FSB officers. She faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Russia’s Ria Novosti reports the FSB has charged her with not only raising money for the Ukrainian cause, but also attending anti-Russian events in the US.

The FSB's statement, circulated by Russian state media, alleged the woman was "providing financial assistance to a foreign state in activities directed against the security of our country."

Since February 2022, she has been "proactively collecting money" for a Ukrainian entity. The funds, according to authorities, were intended for the Ukrainian armed forces, earmarked for "tactical medicine items, equipment, weapons and ammunition."

Khavana’s arrest will further inflame already rocky relations with the US and adds to the growing list of US citizens detained in Russia in contentious circumstances.

Dual citizen and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested last year on espionage charges and last week had his detention prolonged as he awaits trial. In a recent interview Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted that behind the scenes talks with the White House on a possible prisoner swap were ongoing. Despite appeals, Moscow courts decided to extend Gershkovich's detention until at least March 30 last week.

Alsu Kurmasheva, another Russian-American journalist, has been imprisoned since October, facing charges for not registering as a "foreign agent" and disseminating "false information" about Russia's military actions in Ukraine.

A third US citizen, Paul Whelan, a former US marine and security executive, remains incarcerated following his 2018 arrest and subsequent 2020 conviction on espionage charges.

Conditions in Russian jails are notoriously tough. Only last week opposition anti-corruption and opposition leader Alexei Navalny died suddenly on February 16 in a high security prison in Russia’s Far North where he was serving a 19-year sentence for extremism.

Political prisoners in Belarus are similarly in danger. Ihar Lednik, a former member of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada), died in prison in Minsk on February 20. He was detained in 2022 and sentenced to three years for "slander against the president." His health deteriorated significantly in prison. Lednik is one of more than a thousand people held in Belarusian jails on politically motivated charges.