February 21, 2024 – Russia-Ukraine news

9:22 p.m. ET, February 21, 2024

Russian-American arrested in Russia was just excited to visit her grandparents, boyfriend says

Ksenia Karelina seen here in an undated social media photo.

Ksenia Karelina/Facebook

A US-Russian dual citizen was excited to go back to her hometown in Russia to see her grandparents, but she had no idea that she would be arrested and face charges of treason for allegedly donating just $51 to a Ukrainian charity, her boyfriend said.

Chris Van Heerden, the boyfriend of Ksenia Karelina, said she never thought this would happen. The couple, who live in Los Angeles, flew to Istanbul together before Karelina continued to Russia to see her family while Van Heerden flew back to California.

Van Heerden said Karelina was detained, but released, when she entered the country. Later, on the day she was due to fly back to the United States, she told him she was relieved they were going to let her go home — but that was the last time he heard from her.

“I believe in America. I do believe that America will bring her back to me and that’s the hope I’m holding onto,” Van Heerden said, adding that she never talked about any donations and that she is “so proud to be Russian” and never “intervene with anything about the war” in Ukraine.

Chris Van Heerden, the boyfriend of Ksenia Karelina, spoke with CNN on February 21, 2024.


The boyfriend said she wrote him a letter after being arrested. In the letter, which he calls a “love story,” Karelina describes conditions and expresses her worry about her boyfriend.

He said her attitude about what is going to happen varies day by day. Some days she is strong and feels like she will get home soon, but other days, she wrote him: “It’s like I’ll just sit on my bed and stare at a wall for hours, like, knowing that I’m going to be here forever because that’s what she’s thinking.”

Van Heerden told CNN that she was a “semi-pro ballerina” for years but was a full-time esthetician before being arrested in Russia.

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