Politics | October 19, 2017 9:56 am

35-Year-Old Socialite Plans to Run Against Russia’s Vladimir Putin

Ksenia Sobchak is a television journalist and daughter of the former mayor of St. Petersburg.

Ksenia Sobchak, a socialite and television journalist, declared her intention to run against Russian president Vladimir Putin during the next presidential election scheduled for next March, reports The New York Times

Sobchak’s father was a close ally of Putin. She announced her presidential run in a video online and published a letter in Russia’s main business daily, Vedomosti. According to The Times, she portrayed herself as a candidate for anyone who rejects the status quo. She claims to be someone who can give the “struggling opposition a voice and challenge the tired, elderly candidates from established parties who have been around for decades,” writes The Times. 

According to The Times, the main liberal candidate, Aleksei Navalny was banned from running due to convictions in fraud cases that he has called politically motivated. However, he has continued campaigning, though he does not have the backing of a mainstream party.

Sobchak is the daughter of the former mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak. He died in 2000 while campaigning for Putin and after being Putin’s mentor for many years. Putin, meanwhile, managed Anatoly Sobchak’s final campaign in 1996, which he lost, and The Times writes that Putin’s animosity toward electoral politics “is said to date partly from that loss.”

Ksenia Sobchak has 5.2 million Instagram followers and has been portrayed as the Russian equivalent of Paris Hilton, according to The Times. She shows off Paris fashion shows, yoga retreats, yachts and expensive restaurants. She is currently married and has one son.

Sobchak told TV Rain, or Dozhd, a small opposition television channel, that she met with Putin to interview him about her father for a documentary recently, and told him that she was planning on running. The Times reports that she said “he did not seem pleased.”

Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov, told TV Rain that Sobchak is “talented” but according to The Times, also suggest that she has a lot to learn because politics is different than journalism and show business.

Some leaders of the liberal opposition have called her a “spoiler candidate,” or someone who is supposed to give the race a level of excitement and legitimacy. They have also called her a “Kremlin stooge,” according to The Times. 

Putin has run for Russian president or prime minister for almost 18 years and is likely to seek his fourth term as president, though he has not announced formally that he will run.

Sobchak has said she will try to gain Navalny’s support when he is released and said she would discuss withdrawing if he were somehow allowed to run, reports The Times. 

Aleksei V. Makarkin, a political analyst and deputy head of the Center for Political Technologies, a Moscow think tank, doesn’t think she has the right intentions.

“Sobchak doesn’t want to create a party,” he said in an interview, according to The Times. “I think she wants to be a star.”