A prominent Russian journalist and socialite who fled to Lithuania amid an investigation into alleged extortion, has said revealed her fears of retribution.
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 a deputy and was crucial in his rise to power. Both Putin and Anatoly sparked a friendship, with the now Russian president attending Ksenia’s baptism, according to Politico.
Nicknamed “Russia’s Paris Hilton,” Ksenia 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.
Ksenia opposed Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and has since objected to Russia’s instigation of the illegal invasion of Ukraine in February.
On Oct. 25, she fled the country 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.
Shortly after the arrest, Ksenia booked flights to Dubai – a move believed to be intended to distract Russian authorities – before crossing by land to Lithuania via Belarus, according to the state-controlled media outlet TASS.
Upon authorities learning that she had fled the country, Ksenia was named as an official suspect in the ongoing case and was accused of working with Kirill and former Russian Tatler editor Arian Romanovsky to extort millions of rubles from the head of the defense conglomerate Rostec. Her status has since been changed to ‘witness’.
On Oct. 28, Lithuanian intelligences services confirmed that Ksenia was in Lithuania, and said she had the right to remain there for 90 days.
In a Telegram post on Oct. 31, Ksenia 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 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.
“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.”
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