Controversial Russian journalist and businesswoman Ksenia Sobchak has reportedly returned to Russia after fleeing following the issuing of a warrant for her arrest.

Long rumored to be Putin’s goddaughter, Ksenia Sobchak is the daughter of former mayor of St Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak, who formerly employed Putin as his deputy and was crucial in Putin’s rise to power. Both Putin and Anatoly Sobchak sparked a friendship, with the now Russian president attending Ksenia’s baptism, according to Politico.

Nicknamed “Russia’s Paris Hilton, ” Ksenia Sobchak is one of Moscow’s most famous media stars, with her glamorous lifestyle and reality TV career garnering fans across the country. In 2018, the socialite ran as a presidential candidate, standing against Putin, towards whom she has at times voiced criticism.

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Ms. Sobchak voiced opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in spring 2014 and has since objected to Russia’s instigation of the illegal invasion of Ukraine in February.

She fled Russia on Oct. 25 after the arrest of Kirill Sukhanov, the commercial director of her media company Ostorozhno Media. Sukhanov was detained over accusations of extortion, with Ksenia claiming the arrest was an attempt by Putin’s regime to intimidate media companies critical of his actions in Ukraine.

“It is obvious that this is a raid on my editorial office, the last free editorial office in Russia, which had to be shut down, ” she wrote on Telegram shortly after Sukhanov’s detainment.

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Shortly after his arrest, Sobchak booked flights to Dubai – a move believed to be intended to distract Russian authorities – before crossing by land to Lithuania via Belarus, according to Russian state-controlled media outlet TASS.

Upon authorities learning that she had fled the country, Sobchak was named as an official suspect in the ongoing case and was accused of working with Kirill Sukhanov and former chief editor of Tatler Russia, Arian Romanovsky, to extort millions of rubles from the head of the state defense conglomerate Rostec. Her status in the case has since been changed to “witness”.

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Lithuanian intelligences services confirmed on Oct. 28 that Ksenia Sobchak was in Lithuania, and said she had the right to remain there for 90 days.

In a Telegram post on Oct. 31, she wrote: “My thoughts are with my family, from whom I have been separated.”

She then labelled Russian media coverage of her as “fake news” that had sparked a backlash on social media equating to bullying.

“God, how you all must hate me, simply for not being a part of any group,” she wrote. “How you love ripping me apart!”

“And I do detest you for being so shallow and petty,” she added. “Yes, I am in trouble. Possibly, in big trouble. I am glad this brought you a smile this dark evening.”

Ksenia remains a controversial figure. Despite voicing opposition to Russia’s invasion, she has not spoken out about Russian war crimes committed in Ukraine and rejects the notion of collective responsibility of Russians. She has also criticised EU sanctions imposed against Russia.

In September, after an outcry on social media against the fashion brand Zara for using a Russian model in one of their advertising campaigns, Ksenia was widely condemned for comparing Ukrainians who criticised Zara to Nazis.

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“Zara has released an advertising campaign,” she wrote on Telegram. “And specifically, it is Ukrainian accounts that come in and scam: like, you took the Russian one… Well, aren’t you ashamed? What is Nazism anyway? … it really seems to them that the main thing they need to fight is that the Russians do not advertise anything, do not make films for Cannes, do not leave Russia, etc.? This is actually Nazism.”

Numerous Russian media outlets reported on Monday, Nov. 7, that Sobchak had returned to Russia via a border checkpoint in Pskov Region with neighbouring Latvia.

Both Sobchak’s mother, Federation Council member Lyudmila Narusova, and lawyer Sergei Badamshin, declined to comment.

Sobchak and multiple associates close to her refused to comment when contacted by The Moscow Times.

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