Russian investigators have raided the Moscow home of Ksenia Sobchak – the daughter of Vladimir Putin’s former boss and mentor.
Ms Sobchak, 40, made her name as a socialite and reality television star and was known as the ‘Russian Paris Hilton’ before becoming a TV journalist and opposition activist.
She is the daughter of the late Anatoly Sobchak, the first democratically elected mayor of St Petersburg, where Mr Putin served as a deputy in the 1990s.
Ms Sobchak has become a vocal critic of the Russian president – running in the 2018 elections as an opposition candidate – but only securing fourth place and 1.7% of the vote.
Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny claims she ran in a bid to make the contest look more democratic – and described her as a “parody liberal candidate”.
According to the Russian news agencies Tass and RIA-Novosti, police raided Ms Sobchak’s luxury home in the Moscow suburbs in connection with their investigation into alleged wrongdoing by her media director.
Kirill Sukhanov has been arrested on extortion charges, which he denies.
Ms Sobchak has rejected the accusations against Mr Sukhanov as “ravings and nonsense” and said his arrest was part of authorities’ efforts to stifle independent media.
Who is Ksenia Sobchak?
Very much a household name, Ksenia Sobchak is probably the most famous Russian to flee the country these past eight months, alongside the Soviet-era pop legend Alla Pugacheva.
That a one-time presidential candidate with close ties to Vladimir Putin, (Putin was a protege of Sobchak’s father when he was mayor of St Petersburg), should now choose exile rather than face Russia’s court system is a mark of how dangerous even measured political dissent has become.
Once law enforcement starts raiding your home it is time to leave, no matter how high-profile you are.
Sobchak has had many incarnations, as a fashionista and top Russian influencer, a presidential candidate and latterly, celebrity TV journalist.
She has always tried to tread a careful line with the Kremlin, calling out the undemocratic nature of the regime whilst trying to make sure she can still live and work in Russia.
Escaping last night, she must have decided, like so many hundreds of thousands of others, that that is no longer tenable.
9.4 million Instagram followers
Her whereabouts are still unknown.
Russian state media claims she bought plane tickets to Dubai and Turkey to mislead authorities but actually left Russia via Belarus in order to get to Lithuania.
She has 9.4 million followers on Instagram and first became involved in politics during the 2011-12 Moscow protests against Mr Putin.
Ms Sobchak then reinvented herself as a serious broadcaster and opposition activist.
Her father died of an apparent heart attack in February 2000 – when Mr Putin was acting Russian president.
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