Former Ballerina Faces Treason Trial in Moscow Over $51 Ukraine Donation

The trial of Ksenia Karelina, a former ballerina with dual U.S.-Russian citizenship, commenced on Thursday in Moscow. She faces treason charges for allegedly acting as an American spy.

Karelina, who resides in Los Angeles, was initially detained for “petty hooliganism” before the more serious treason charges were levied. Authorities claim that while living in the U.S., she raised funds for the Ukrainian military and participated in pro-Ukraine demonstrations. However, Karelina’s boyfriend, Chis Van Deerden, maintains that she is “proud to be Russian” and uninvolved in political matters.

According to Karelina’s former mother-in-law, Eleonora Sreborski, Karelina had assured her boyfriend that Russia was safe and there was no need for him to worry about her visits. Authorities reportedly reviewed Karelina’s phone, discovering photos that allegedly show her at an anti-Putin protest where she held a sign proclaiming, “We want peace.”

Karelina appeared in court dressed in jeans and a green plaid shirt. A pro-Putin news outlet reported that the charges stem from a $51.80 donation she made to a Ukrainian charity, claiming she “understood where and what she was sending.” Sreborski asserted that the donation was to a humanitarian aid organization that provides non-military assistance to Ukraine.

Following her arrest, Karelina attempted to appeal the charges, but the court denied the motion and extended her pre-trial detention, which took place in a Siberian prison. Her trial will be conducted behind closed doors, with the media highlighting the rarity of acquittals in such cases.

If convicted, Karelina faces a prison sentence ranging from 12 years to life. However, a notice posted on the court’s website late on Thursday announced an adjournment until August 7, without providing a reason.

Karelina’s case is one of several that have emerged as Russia intensifies its crackdown on anti-war sentiment within the country.

Andrey Mineev, the judge presiding over Karelina’s case, will also handle the case of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who is also accused of espionage. Gershkovich, a 32-year-old American, has been detained for nearly 15 months in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison. Russia recently acknowledged that negotiations for his release are ongoing.