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Boyfriend of Ksenia Khavana, Los Angeles ballet dancer detained in Russia, speaks out

Ksenia Khavana, a ballet dancer with dual U.S. and Russian citizenship, was arrested in Russia on charges of treason in late January. Chris Van Heerden, a former world champion boxer and Khavana's boyfriend, spoke to CBS News about the fight to bring her back.

Van Heerden said he and Khavana met in 2020 in Los Angeles and have been romantically involved for the past six months. The couple celebrated the new year together in Istanbul, Turkey, before Khavana flew to her family's hometown of Yekaterinburg, Russia, about 1,100 miles east of Moscow.

"She was just so excited to go back home because she misses her grandparents," Van Heerden said. "And that was the purpose of me buying that ticket. I bought her that ticket, and I'm so angry at myself, but I didn't know."

Ballet dancer Ksenia Khavana and boyfriend Chris Van Heerden in Istanbul, Turkey. Chris Van Heerden

Van Heerden bought Khavana the ticket as a birthday present, saying that, although he was worried about the ongoing war in Ukraine, she alleviated his concerns. He reached out to her when he returned to Los Angeles from Turkey, but "hours went by with no response."

Khavana eventually called Van Heerden from her mother's phone, saying she had been detained upon her arrival and her phone had been taken. The next three weeks passed without incident.

"I remember the last week I could see my girlfriend — I was like, she's happy, finally she's relaxing… she was excited," Van Heerden said of their daily FaceTimes on Khavana's mother's phone.

On the morning of Jan. 27 Khavana told Van Heerden that everything was good, and she had been told she could pick up her phone ahead of her return flight. But Van Heerden later received a call from Khavana's father, who told him she had been detained.

Khavana was arrested after making a donation of only about $51 to a Ukrainian charity. Russia's Federal Security Service alleges she also took part in "public actions" in the U.S. in support of Kyiv. It did not provide further details about the allegations.

If convicted of treason under Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code, Khavana faces up to 20 years in prison.

"I've been [speaking to] the U.S. State Department, Congressman Adam Schiff's seen me in L.A., The U.S. embassy in Moscow has responded, but everyone is not saying anything because apparently Ksenia needs to sign some forms," Van Heerden said of the case's current status. "This could take weeks or months. And I'm like, who do I speak to to make sure we get someone to Ksenia ASAP to make sure she's okay and sign those letters so I can be in the loop?"

The only contact Van Heerden has had with Khavana since her detention has been via letters, which he says go through vetting protocols. When Khavana went to court in Russia previously, she stood alone, Van Heerden said.

"The lawyer didn't show up. No one wants to touch this case," Van Heerden said. She is next scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 29, and has not yet been able to secure legal representation, Van Heerden told CBS News.

"I just want to give this girl a fighting chance. I just want to let her know that hey, when she arrives there on the 29th, there's a lawyer, and she doesn't feel like no one cares about her." Van Heerden said. "I'm just desperate. I want to fight for this girl."

— Imtiaz Tyab contributed reporting.  

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