American ballerina on trial in Moscow for allegedly donating $51 to Ukraine, accused of spying.

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The trial of Ksenia Karelina, a U.S.-Russian former ballerina, commenced in Moscow on Thursday, where she faces treason charges over allegations of acting as an American spy. Karelina, who holds dual citizenship and resides in Los Angeles, was detained during a visit to Russia in February, initially on charges of “petty hooliganism” before being accused of treason.

Authorities claim Karelina raised funds for the Ukrainian army and participated in public demonstrations supporting Ukraine while in the United States. However, her boyfriend, Chis Van Deerden, contends that Karelina is proud of her Russian heritage and avoids following news related to the conflict. According to her former mother-in-law, Eleonora Sreborski, Karelina reassured her loved ones that Russia was safe and there was no cause for concern during her visit.

During the proceedings, it was revealed that authorities examined Karelina’s phone, uncovering photos allegedly showing her at an anti-Putin and anti-war protest in Los Angeles, where she held a sign advocating for peace. Karelina appeared in court dressed casually in jeans and a green plaid shirt as she listened to the charges against her. Reports from pro-government media outlets suggest the charges stem from a modest donation of $51.80 to a Ukrainian charity, with claims that she was aware of the intended purpose of the funds.

Despite attempts to appeal her detention shortly after her arrest, Karelina’s motion was denied, leading to an extension of her pre-trial confinement in a Siberian jail. Her trial is scheduled to be conducted behind closed doors, a practice that typically offers little chance of acquittal, according to reports.

If convicted, Karelina could face a severe sentence ranging from 12 years to life in prison, as reported by Reuters. However, the trial was unexpectedly adjourned until August 7, with no specific reason given for the delay according to a notice posted on the court’s website late Thursday.

Karelina’s case is one of several recent instances where Russia has cracked down on individuals expressing anti-war sentiments within the country. The judge overseeing her trial, Andrey Mineev, is also presiding over the case of Evan Gershkovich, a 32-year-old American journalist for the Wall Street Journal who has been detained for nearly 15 months on similar charges of espionage at Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison. Negotiations for Gershkovich’s release have reportedly been underway, marking a parallel development in these high-profile cases.

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