UNITED STATES NEWS

A Los Angeles woman was arrested in Russia on charges of treason. Here’s what we know

Feb 21, 2024, 5:23 PM

Russia’s main domestic intelligence agency has arrested a woman with dual U.S. and Russian citizenship on charges of treason, accusing her of collecting money for the Ukrainian military.

The Federal Security Service said in a statement early Tuesday that the Los Angeles resident was arrested in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, about 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometers) east of Moscow. She had returned to Russia to visit family.

Authorities did not name the woman, but her longtime employer in California identified her as Ksenia Khavana.

Here is what is known about Khavana and Russia’s case against her:

WHO IS KHAVANA?

Khavana, 33, is a citizen of the U.S. and Russia.

The independent Russian news outlet Mediazona identified her as Ksenia Karelina, her maiden name, and said that she had received U.S. citizenship after marrying an American.

Isabella Koretz, owner of Ciel Spa at the SLS Beverly Hills where Khavana has worked for eight years, told The Associated Press that Khavana, a ballet dancer, came to the U.S. to study at the University of Maryland in Baltimore before relocating to Los Angeles.

She said Khavana is divorced and does not have any relatives in the U.S. Koretz said she has grown close to Khavana over the years and treats her like “she’s family.”

According to Koretz, Khavana tried to see her family in Russia at least once a year, usually around Christmas and New Year’s. This year, Koretz said, Khavana flew into Russia from Istanbul in early January for a two-week trip to spend time with her 90-year-old grandmother, parents and younger sister.

Koretz grew concerned when Khavana stopped returning her messages and phone calls after entering Russia. She said panic set in when Khavana ultimately did not return from her trip in mid-January as planned.

“This girl is like an angel,” Koretz said. “You have to understand that she wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

WHAT IS SHE ACCUSED OF?

Russia’s Federal Security Service alleges that Khavana had been “proactively” raising funds for a Ukrainian organization since February 2022 — money that it says was “subsequently used to purchase tactical medicine, equipment, weapons and ammunition by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”

The agency said she also took part in “public actions” in the U.S. in support of Kyiv. It did not provide further details about the allegations.

Koretz said Khavana actually was collecting funds for humanitarian aid and had made a donation to Razom for Ukraine, a U.S.-based nonprofit that says it provides medical kits and disaster relief to those affected by Russia’s invasion of the country.

“We’re talking about diapers and formula, that’s what she was collecting money for,” Koretz said. “We’re not talking about money for weapons.”

In its own statement Tuesday, the nonprofit’s CEO said she was appalled by media reports of the arrest but did not name Khavana or confirm whether the woman had previously donated to the charity.

The organization said in an email to The Associated Press that it does not disclose the identities of its donors to protect their privacy.

“Razom calls on the U.S. government to continue to do everything in its power to demand that President Putin release all those unjustly detained by Russia and to hold Russia’s political and military leadership accountable for their unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” Dora Chomiak said in her statement.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said that the White House and the State Department were aware of reports of the arrest and added that “we are trying to get more information and to secure some consular access to that individual.”

WHERE IS SHE NOW?

The Federal Security Service says that she has been ordered detained as a “preventative measure” while it continues its investigation.

Koretz said that Khavana, meanwhile, has been communicating with her colleagues at the spa through letters and has asked them to help her sell her belongings in Los Angeles, including her car.

“She doesn’t want to leave anybody with her debts,” Koretz said.

If convicted of treason under article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code, Khavana faces up to 20 years in prison.

News on Tuesday of Khavana’s arrest came the same day a court in the Russian capital ruled to keep Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in custody pending his trial on espionage charges that he denies.

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A Los Angeles woman was arrested in Russia on charges of treason. Here’s what we know