Russia denies the United States access to Ksenia Karelina, the American dancer accused of treason by the Kremlin

Matthew Miller warned that Russia's lack of recognition of American citizenship in cases of dual nationality makes diplomatic intervention difficult.

Russia does not recognize the U.S. citizenship of Ksenia Karelina, a dual-citizen dancer who was recently arrested in Yekaterinburg on charges of treason for donating funds to the Ukrainian military. The detention has raised concerns due to the lack of information accessible to U.S. officials.

Ksenia Karelina, a 33-year-old woman with American and Russian citizenship, was arrested on January 27 after donating just over $50 to a nonprofit organization that raises funds for Ukraine. Although news of her arrest should have been immediately given to the United States under a bilateral agreement with Russia, this did not happen. Since then, Washington has had limited access to information about Karelina’s case, according to ABC7.

The United States is working to obtain more details

State Department officials are working to obtain more information and access to the detainee, but Russia’s lack of recognition of U.S. citizenship in cases of dual nationality makes diplomatic intervention difficult.

Given the complications, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller strongly warned that traveling to Russia at this time represents a significant risk.

“Russia continues to detain its own citizens and continues to detain American citizens, and it’s why we have tried to make clear just as plainly as we possibly can that no American citizens should consider traveling to Russia for any reason, period, because they are at risk of detention, imprisonment by the Russian regime,” Miller said.

Karelina went to visit her elderly grandmother

The dancer’s boyfriend, Chris Van Heerden, revealed in an interview with NBC that Karelina traveled to Russia on January 2 to visit her family, including her 90-year-old grandmother. Although the dancer apparently had no reservations about returning to Russia, she faced setbacks upon her arrival, initially being detained at the airport. Although she was released at that time, authorities arrested her again shortly after.

Van Heerden called for Karelina’s release and return to Los Angeles, saying: “She’s just a normal person.”

Other U.S. citizens detained in Russia

Russia has also shown increasing reluctance to allow diplomats access to foreign nationals who have been imprisoned in recent years, even if they only have one nationality. This trend is consistently reflected in the usual restrictions on diplomats’ access to citizens such as Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, both U.S. citizens detained on espionage charges. The United States has attempted to negotiate their release through a prisoner exchange, but Vladimir Putin’s regime has rejected these proposals.

A controversial prisoner exchange

Late last year, Russia and the Biden Administration did reach an agreement that involved a prisoner exchange, but this involved basketball star Brittney Griner and Russian arms dealer Victor But (Viktor Bout).

The exchange generated controversy as it was considered especially favorable for Russia. Griner was imprisoned in Russia on charges of drug possession and smuggling, while But, known as the ‘merchant of death,’ was serving a 25-year sentence for arms trafficking.