Top Russian Celebrity, Long Close to Putin, Flees Country

Ksenia Sobchak goes to Lithuania after her home was raided
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2022 6:45 PM CDT
Top Russian Celebrity, Long Close to Putin, Flees Country
A Russian national guard patrol vehicle leaves the Gorky 8 cottage village where the house of Russian TV host Ksenia Sobchak is located near Moscow on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Vladimir Kondrashov)

Ksenia Sobchak, one of Russia's biggest celebrities and the daughter of a politician who helped launch President Vladimir Putin's career, has left the country. Lithuania security officials said Thursday that the TV anchor arrived using an Israeli passport, NBC News reports. Russian state media said Sobchak, 40, fled to avoid being arrested, after her home was raided during a criminal investigation of one of her employees. She first attained fame as a socialite and reality TV star, later becoming a political journalist and interviewer. Other media personalities, as well as actors and musicians, have left Russia for fear of reprisals after expressing their opposition to the invasion of Ukraine—as Sobchak has.

Her father was Anatoly Sobchak, the first post-Soviet mayor of St. Petersburg, who made Putin deputy mayor. Their families were close for years. The raid on Sobchak's home outside Moscow, which included the arrest of her commercial director, has unnerved the top political and social classes. "If they can arrest the daughter of Putin's mentor ... it means there are no untouchables?" Sergei Markov, a political analyst, wrote on the Telegram messaging app. "For some members of the elites, an arrest warrant for Sobchak is a blazing sign in the skies."

Sobchak ran against Putin in 2018, receiving about 2% of the vote. Operating somewhere between Russia's rulers and the liberal opposition, Sobchak has not quite been trusted by either side, per the Washington Post; the family ties have led many to wonder if she's been doing Putin's bidding while criticizing him. She issued a statement this week rebutting the criminal allegations against her business. "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," Sobchak said. But she added that she hoped "this is all a misunderstanding." (More Russia stories.)

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