Russian-American Faces Closed-Door Treason Trial

( – Russian authorities take a two-step approach when dealing with high-profile trials involving foreign nationals or individuals with dual citizenship. They choreograph the defendant’s initial court appearance, placing them in a glass cage so the whole world can watch them cower. Typically, further courtroom proceedings occur behind closed doors and away from the watchful eyes of journalists. Recent reports indicate a Russian-American is facing a similar fate on allegations she committed treason.

On June 20, media outlets erupted with the news that Russian-American Ksenia Karelina’s legal proceedings had begun. Local police officers from the southern city of Yekaterinburg detained the 32-year-old ballerina in late January after she traveled to Russia to visit family members.

Prosecutors accused her of committing treason by “proactively transferring funds to a Ukrainian organization.” The government further alleges that Ukraine’s military services subsequently used those funds to “purchase tactical medicine, equipment, weapons, and ammunition.”

Western news outlets spoke to Karelina’s boyfriend about her detention. He said she made a one-time donation of roughly $50 to a Ukrainian charity.

Media organization photographs show Karelina smiling wistfully at reporters from the defendant’s cage during the proceedings. The presiding judge scheduled her next hearing on August 7 behind closed doors.

Russian authorities are holding her trial behind closed doors, the norm with foreigners, particularly ones charged with committing crimes against the state. She faces up to 20 years imprisonment if convicted. Media outlets recently confirmed that acquittals for treason are rare.

Ironically (or not), Karelina’s trial is taking place in Yekaterinburg. The same courthouse is scheduled to begin hearing the case of Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested by Russian authorities on espionage charges in March 2023.

Like Karelina, he faces as many as 20 years behind bars if convicted. United States officials have attempted to broker a prisoner exchange to secure his release. However, Russian authorities say they wouldn’t consider a swap until after the conclusion of his trial.

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