Ksenia Sobchak, Russian TV star linked to Putin, fled using Israeli passport

Opinion

Russian socialite and TV anchor Ksenia Sobchak, who has close family ties to President Vladimir Putin, said on Tuesday she was using two Israeli citizenships to raid her home after police raided her home, which Russian authorities said was related to a criminal investigation into one of the two. Business partners.

Sobchak, 40, rose to fame as a reality TV star and has been known over the years as Russia’s “girl”. Russian Paris HiltonShe is the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak, the first Soviet mayor of St. Petersburg.

Anatoly Sobchak, who died in 2000, was Putin’s boss and political adviser. In the year In 1990, Sobchak hired Putin, then a KGB agent, as deputy mayor, and the two families became close over the course of the decade.

Ksenia Sobchak now heads the Ostorozhno Novosti project, which includes Telegram news channels, a podcast studio, a YouTube channel, and Sobchak’s own social media page. As she builds a fence between Russia’s political elite and her liberal political opponents, she has earned some trust from both camps. In the year In 2018, she ran for president against Putin and won about 2 percent of the vote.

Sobchak’s current legal troubles seem to reflect tensions within the well-connected elite, as well as Russia’s heightened state of stress amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. It also highlighted the urgency many well-to-do Russians feel about acquiring dual citizenship and a second passport.

Sobchak fled to Belarus, then EU member Lithuania, along with the other Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia, effectively closed to Russian travelers – allowing even those who already had visas to enter the EU’s Schengen area. Zone. Only two citizens or Russian citizens with a humanitarian visa and residence permit can enter.

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But Sobchak, who is of partial Jewish heritage, used her Israeli passport to cross the border, Lithuania’s interior ministry confirmed Thursday. A video from a surveillance camera surfaced on Telegram channels showing Sobchak entering Lithuania on foot and talking to border officials.

Earlier this week, police raided Sobchak’s home outside Moscow and arrested her business director, Kirill Sukhanov, who was ordered to remain in custody until the end of December.

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Russian state media reported that investigators charged Sukhanov and the former editor of Russia’s Tatler magazine, Ariane Romanovsky, after a complaint was filed by Sergei Chemezov, a Putin ally who runs the state-owned military and defense contractor.

State news agency Tass, citing case files, reported that investigators published a post on a Telegram channel containing Sukhanov and Romanovsky, “containing information that could seriously harm the rights and legal interests” of Kemezov, and then asked them to question him. 11 million rubles (about $180,000) to delete the post.

Tass reported that detectives implicated Sobchak in the robbery scheme and issued a warrant for her arrest, but she eluded them. “She left Moscow on Tuesday night, initially buying tickets online to Dubai and Turkey to thwart the operators,” the report quoted unnamed law enforcement sources as saying.

The Washington Post could not independently verify the claims.

In a statement, Sobchak denied the allegations. “Robbery of what from whom? “What does any of this have to do with Rostec,” Sobchak wrote on her Telegram blog.

“Hopefully, that’s not the case, and it’s all a misunderstanding,” she added, in a diplomatic line that seemed to allow her investigators to be sidelined by senior officials.

It’s not the first time Sobchak’s home has been searched by law enforcement, and it’s not the first time she’s tried to silence her as a commentator and protester.

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In the year In 2012, her Moscow apartment was raided as part of a crackdown on Russian opposition activists, including Alexei Navalny, who survived an August 2020 poisoning attack by Russian security agents and is currently serving a lengthy sentence in a prison colony.

Sobchak answered the door to the police in plain clothes, and the agents took nearly $1.5 million in cash, dollars and euros from her safe. “They are going to silence me,” she later told reporters.

Sobchak grew up among the elite in St. Petersburg, knowing dozens of politicians and ministers from a young age.

In the year Until the 2012 coup, she was considered untouchable because of her fame and family ties to Putin. Unlike many critics of the Kremlin who have tried in recent years to build a wider audience outside the state-controlled media, she appears likely to remain immune from prosecution.

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Sobchak is a polarizing figure in Russia’s independent media and opposition circles. She first rose to fame as a reality TV host in the early 2000s, establishing a scandalous image and being called the Russian Hilton – a comparison she came to despise.

In the year At the end of 2011 and the She branded herself as a dissident after participating in the 2011 “White Ribbon” anti-Kremlin protests against election fraud in 2012 and Putin’s return to power as president. Dmitry Medvedev, while serving as prime minister instead.

At the time, tens of thousands of people protested in Bolotnaya Square and other parts of Moscow in the largest demonstrations since the fall of the Soviet Union. But Putin has cracked down on dissent with increasingly repressive measures, including arrests and prosecutions.

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Sobchak has often been cautiously critical of Putin and his policies, but many opponents accuse her of trying to simultaneously appease liberals and the Kremlin.

Putin has often faced “loyal” opponents in presidential races over the years, and Russia’s opposition criticized Sobchak’s decision in 2011. They did so after the authorities barred Putin’s Navalny from running in 2018 to grab liberal votes in the Kremlin and create the appearance of democracy. Chief Nemesis, from running.

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Investigative News Project While the 2020 campaign has been reported to be closely coordinated with the presidential administration, Sobchak has denied that she herself asked Putin or his aides for permission to run.

Recently, Sobchak established herself as a serious TV journalist and anchor of a YouTube channel with over 3 million subscribers.

The news of her quick departure from the country drew mixed reactions.

“From the producers of ‘Sobchak on Bolotnaya’ and ‘Sobchak the President,’ expect a comedy show called ‘Sobchak in protest 3.0,'” said Navalny’s partner and director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, Ivan Zhdanov. “Again, those buying this are either not very smart or have bad intentions,” wrote Zhadanov, who lives in exile in Vilnius, Lithuania. “Don’t be deceived”

But Alexander Rodyansky, a Ukrainian film and television producer who worked in Russia for decades before the war, offered a more sympathetic assessment on his Instagram blog.

“Sobchak had a large audience and undoubtedly presented liberal and Western ideas,” Rodnyansky wrote. In the context of war and the systematic destruction of civil society, anyone who has to flee persecution deserves support in my opinion.



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