'Russia's version of Paris Hilton' announces presidential bid

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 18, 2017 12:08 PM

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian TV personality Ksenia Sobchak said on Wednesday she planned to run in a presidential election next year, offering liberal voters unhappy with Kremlin rule someone to get behind, but will little prospect she will win.

Opinion polls show that President Vladimir Putin will comfortably win re-election if, as most observers expect, he decides to seek what would be his fourth term in March.

A significant minority of liberal voters accuse Putin of overseeing a corrupt system that has isolated Russia from the outside world however, and many of them have taken part in mass protests organised by Putin critic Alexei Navalny.

But Russian officials say Navalny is ineligible to run for president due to a criminal conviction he says was fabricated.

Sobchak, who has been described by Vogue magazine as the Russian version of U.S. socialite Paris Hilton, said she had decided to run because she was sick of the same politicians, including Putin, running year after year.

In a video clip posted online on Wednesday evening, Sobchak, 35, said she had the right to run for Russia's top political job under the country's constitution which stipulates that all candidates must be 35 or older.

"I decided to exercise that right because I am against all of those (candidates) who usually exercise that right," said Sobchak.

"When I was 18 and was studying in university, Vladimir Putin became president of Russia. Children who were born that year will go and vote themselves this year. Just think about that."

Navalny, commenting last month on rumours she would run, said Sobchak was being used by the Kremlin as a safe lightning conductor for voters' dissatisfaction.

She was being drawn into "this fairly loathsome Kremlin game that goes by the title of: 'Let's put a liberal laughing-stock up for the elections in order to distract attention,'" said Navalny.

Sobchak is the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak, the reformist former mayor of St Petersburg who hired Putin as an official in City Hall in the 1990s. Sobchak, who died in 2000, became a mentor to Putin. Sobchak's mother is Lyudmila Narusova, who sits in the upper house of the Russian parliament.

Ksenia Sobchak's Instagram account, often featuring photographs of her dressed in designer outfits and appearing at glitzy society events, has 5.2 million followers.

After graduating from the prestigious MGIMO university in Moscow, she became a nationwide celebrity when she hosted a Russian reality TV show called Dom 2.

She became active in opposition politics around the time that Putin, in 2012, was re-elected to the presidency after stepping down for four years to comply with constitutional term limits.

She appeared at opposition rallies, spoke out against the Kremlin on social media, and recast herself as a news anchor on opposition-leaning Russian broadcaster TV Rain.

(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Andrew Osborn)