Russia raids home of celebrity Ksenia Sobchak

MOSCOW (HPD) — Russian investigators raided the home of Ksenia Sobchak, the daughter of Vladimir Putin’s former boss, on Wednesday in a move that has shaken the country’s political world.

Sobchak, a 40-year-old TV star, has been a frequent critic of President Putin, but some opponents see her as a Kremlin project. In 2018, she was a candidate in the presidential election, coming in a distant fourth with 1.7% of the vote, in what critics called an attempt by the Kremlin to put a democratic veneer on the president’s re-election.

Investigators said the raid on Sobchak’s luxurious home in a wealthy Moscow suburb was part of an investigation into alleged crimes by his media director, Kirill Sukhanov, who was arrested and charged with extortion.

Sobchak on Tuesday dismissed the accusations against Sukhanov as “crazy and senseless,” calling the arrest an effort by authorities to gag the independent press.

The state agencies Tass and RIA-Novosti reported that Sobchak fled Russia. Tass claimed that he bought tickets to Dubai and Turkey to mislead the authorities, but went to Belarus and from there to Lithuania.

Sobchak has not commented on the allegations and his whereabouts are unknown.

She is the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak, who was mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Putin was his deputy.

Sobchak has 9.4 million followers on Instagram and her glamour, cunning and rebellious attitude have won her fans and detractors.

Initially, she gained fame as an elegant socialite and reality TV star, and was called “Russia’s Paris Hilton.” But she then made efforts to change the image of her as an arrogant rich girl.

Sobchak became involved in politics when she joined the massive anti-Putin protests in 2011-12, and later became a television journalist and opposition activist.

Sobchak has denied being manipulated by the government in running in the 2018 elections. But opposition leader Alexei Navalny has called her a “parody of a liberal candidate” and charged that her campaign helped the Kremlin delegitimize the opposition.

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