Russian media figure flees to Lithuania

Russian media figure flees to Lithuania


Ksenia Sobchak, a Russian media figure and the daughter of Vladimir Putin’s mentor, has fled her country to Lithuania, border officials in Vilnius said on Wednesday after Russian news outlets reported that she was suspected in a racketeering case.

Sobchak dismissed the case as an attempt by the Russian government to pressure its media group, Attention Media.

“It is clear that it is an attack on my editorial office, the last remaining free editorial office in Russia that had to be put under pressure,” the 40-year-old said on Telegram.

An officer with the Lithuanian State Border Service, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP news agency Sobchak arrived with an Israeli passport.

In September, Lithuania banned entry for Russians traveling on tourist visas because of the invasion of the Kremlin in Ukraine.

Sobchak, a popular media personality and journalist who ran against Putin in the 2018 presidential election, is reportedly his goddaughter.

Her father, the late Saint Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, was once Putin’s boss.

Earlier in the day, Russia’s TASS news agency reported that Sobchak had left Moscow during the night, citing a police source who said she had traveled to Lithuania via Belarus.

TASS and state broadcaster RT quoted law enforcement sources as saying Sobchak was suspected of large-scale extortion, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Kirill Sukhanov, commercial director of Attention Media, was arrested earlier this week as part of the investigation.

Attention Media runs a number of social media projects, including Sobchak’s YouTube channel, which has over three million subscribers.

“Kirill, we love you and we believe nothing,” Sobchak said on Telegram.

Russian media said Sobchak’s mansion outside Moscow was raided in connection with a case against her commercial director, Arian Romanovsky.

Sobchak has been involved in Russian opposition politics for years, although she remains a divisive figure among critics of Putin.

When she ran for president against Putin in 2018, Russian opposition politicians accused her of being used as a spoiler candidate by the Kremlin.

Thousands of Russians have fled the country since Putin launched an attack on Ukraine in February. A second wave left the country after he announced a military mobilization on September 21.

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