Russian investigators raid the home of ex-Putin boss’ daughter
Russian investigators raided the home of Ksenia Sobchak, the glamorous daughter of former Russian President Vladimir Putin’s boss, on Wednesday in a move that sent shockwaves through the country’s political scene.
Sobchak, a 40-year-old TV star, has often criticized Putin, but many Russian opposition figures have accused her of serving the Kremlin’s agenda. In 2018, she became a liberal candidate in the Russian presidential election, finishing fourth with around 1.7% of the vote in what her critics described as a Kremlin effort to add a democratic veneer to Putin’s sweeping re-election.
Investigators said the search of Sobchak’s luxury home in a prestigious Moscow suburb was part of an investigation into alleged wrongdoing by its media director, Kirill Sukhanov, who was arrested for extortion.
Sobchak on Tuesday dismissed the charges against Sukhanov as « ramblings and nonsense » and described his arrest as part of authorities’ efforts to stifle independent media.
State news agencies Tass and RIA-Novosti said Sobchak had fled Russia. Tass claimed she bought tickets to Dubai and Turkey to fool authorities, but eventually left for Belarus, from where she moved to Lithuania. The reports claimed that investigators suspected Sobchak of being involved in the extortion scheme with her media director and alleged that a warrant had been issued for her arrest.
The claims could not be independently confirmed. Sobchak has not commented on the allegations and her whereabouts are unknown.
Sobchak has many contacts among Russia’s wealthy and powerful, and the search of his home has dominated national news.
Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin political analyst, argued that the raid sent a signal to members of the Russian elite that all bets are off.
« If they can arrest Putin’s boss’ daughter… that means there are no untouchables, » Markov wrote in a commentary. « For some members of the elites, an arrest warrant for Sobchak is a blazing sign in the sky. »
Sobchak is the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak, a liberal St. Petersburg mayor for whom Putin served as a deputy in the 1990s.
Sobchak has 9.4 million Instagram followers, and her glamour, quick wit and provocative ways have made her both loved and hated.
She first rose to prominence as a fashionable socialite and reality TV star and was once dubbed the « Russian Paris Hilton », but later sought to shed her spoiled and arrogant image.
Sobchak became involved in politics when she joined massive protests in Moscow against Putin in 2011-2012, then reinvented herself as a serious television journalist and opposition activist.
Sobchak denied serving the Kremlin’s agenda by standing as Putin’s challenger in 2018. But opposition leader Alexei Navalny slammed her for discrediting the opposition by joining the race, saying she was a « parody of a liberal candidate » and her involvement in the campaign helped the Kremlin cast the opposition in a negative light.