Partner of woman held in Russia calls for her release

Connie Queline

Partner of woman held in Russia calls for her release

RIA Novosti

The boyfriend of a US-Russian citizen detained in Russia on suspicion of treason has called on the US government to help bring her home.

Ksenia Karelina, 33, was detained by Russian authorities in Yekaterinburg after travelling there on a family visit last month.

She was also accused of fundraising for Ukraine’s armed forces.

Chris Van Heerden said his partner would be appearing in court on Thursday ahead of a trial beginning in April.

She was, he told BBC Radio 4’s World Tonight programme, a “normal American citizen that made a mistake”.

“She was so naive, she doesn’t watch the news, she said, ‘Chris look, I’m Russian, I’m safe, nothing is going to happen to me’,” he said.

He described her as “proud to be Russian” – so proud about where she was from that she was comfortable travelling there.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said an unnamed woman had been arrested for collecting money for the Ukrainian military since February 2022 – when Russia first launched its full-scale invasion.

“She didn’t want to engage in conversation when it came to the war,” Mr Van Heerden added.

Footage shared by Russian state-owned news agency Ria Novosti showed a woman, whose face was obscured by a hat and blurred out, being escorted by a uniformed officer.

She was seen being handcuffed and placed into a car, before being led into what appeared to be a holding cell in a courtroom, from which she was eventually led out.

  • US citizens jailed by Putin left hostage to a deal
  • US-Russian woman detained on treason charge

Mr Van Heerden, a professional boxer, said he was “so scared” for Ms Karelina when he saw the footage.

“I broke down because I know Ksenia, she is a sweetheart, she’s so soft and I cannot imagine for the life of me how scared she must be,” he said.

He said she had sent a love letter from the pre-trial confinement centre where she was being held, in which she described oscillating from being full of motivation one day to hopeless another.

Ms Karelina was “prepared for what might be the fight of her life as she might be in there forever”, he added.

“I want to let people know that Ksenia is a normal person, that’s my job. She’s a normal American citizen that made a mistake,” he said.

“I’m in a fight right now totally out of my control, I’m in a fight that I’m not familiar with. I’m trying my very best to do as much as I can.”

Mr Van Heerden hopes that by shining a light on the case he will put pressure on the US government to help secure his partner’s release.

Before Ms Karelina was identified in reports, the White House said it was aware of the reported arrest and had been trying to get more information.

Last week, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that the White House and state department were trying to “secure some consular access to that individual”.

The FSB said the woman had been detained in Yekaterinburg, about 1,600km (1,000 miles) east of Moscow – the same city in which US journalist Evan Gershkovich was arrested on charges of espionage on 29 March last year.

In April last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree increasing the maximum sentence for treason to life in jail, up from 20 years, as part of a crackdown on dissent.

Related Topics

  • War in Ukraine
  • Russia
  • United States
  • Ukraine

SOURCE

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