Lee Heidhues 10.27.2022
In Putin’s Russia all politics are personal.
Even his goddaughter is supposed to toe the Moscow Line. Apparently Ksenia Sobchak was not one to play ball with Vladimir and took a trip abroad.
She won’t be back in the USSR anytime soon.
Russian media personality Ksenia Sobchak, the glamorous goddaughter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has arrived in Lithuania on an Israeli passport, officials said Thursday.
Sobchak is famous in Russia, where she took on various journalistic, celebrity and political roles over the years and has long-standing family ties with President Vladimir Putin. Her late father, former Saint Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak, was Putin’s boss in the 1990s.
Sobchak first rose to fame as a fashionable socialite and reality TV star, but later tried to get rid of her spoiled and arrogant image. She got involved in politics when she joined the massive anti-Putin protests in Moscow in 2011-12, and later reinvented herself as a serious TV journalist and opposition activist.
A day before her property was searched by Russian police as part of a criminal case against her commercial director. The state news agency TASS reported, citing law enforcement agencies, that Sobchak herself was not a suspect.
However, Sobchak hinted on her Telegram channel that the case that triggered the search was politically motivated and linked to a documentary she had made about the use of torture in Russian prisons.
Russian media claimed Sobchak bought tickets to Dubai and Turkey to mislead the authorities but eventually left for Belarus, from where she traveled to Lithuania.
“Citizens of (Israel) do not need a visa and are allowed to stay in the country for 90 days,” Darius Jauniskis, head of Lithuania’s State Security Department, told a local radio station. Jauniskis said Lithuania has no evidence of any threat that Sobchak could pose to national security.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters that “Ms. Sobchak currently is not included in any sanctions list of the EU, UK or the US. This does not mean that it cannot occur.”
Lithuania and other Baltic states along with Poland stopped admitting Russian citizens with valid Schengen visas back in September. Hundreds were turned away, but many entered anyway, after presenting other countries’ passports at the border.
Israel’s daily Haaretz newspaper reported in April that Sobchak acquired Israeli citizenship after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
She has often criticized Putin, but many Russian opposition figures have also accused her of serving the Kremlin’s agenda. In 2018, she became a liberal challenger in Russia’s presidential election, finishing a fourth with about 1.7% of the vote.
Her critics called her election campaign an attempt by the Kremlin to lend a democratic touch to Putin’s sweeping re-election. However, Sobchak denied serving Putin’s agenda.