Ksenia Sobchak, one of the best-known people in Russia, has fled Russia to get the Kremlin off her back and to avoid arrest.
The TV celebrity who was known as "Russian Paris Hilton" is in Lithuania on an Israeli passport. The Russian media says Sobchak fled Russia on Tuesday night – she crossed the Belarus-Lithuania border after tricking the Russian authorities by buying plane tickets from Moscow to Dubai via Istanbul. A CCTV footage show Sobchak covering her face and wearing a cap as she crosses what seems to be the Lithuanian border on foot.
However, this has raised eyebrows as the Baltic country stopped taking in Russian citizens who had a valid visa in September. But many Russians with passports of other countries are still entering Lithuania.
Darius Jauniskis, the head of Lithuania's State Security Department, confirmed that Sobchak was in the country. He said Lithuania has no evidence of any threat that the Russian TV personnel could pose to national security. Jauniskis added that as an Israeli citizen, with a valid passport, Sobchak doesn't need a visa and can enter Lithuania and stay for up to 90 days.
According to Russian state media, Sobchak's home had been raided as part of a criminal case against one of her employees. She is a suspect in an extortion case, as per TASS, which involves her media director Kirill Sukhanov, who has been jailed on charges of trying to extort 11m roubles from Sergey Chemezov, the head of the Russian state defence corporation Rostec and a former KGB general close to Putin.
Sobchak, a critic of Putin, on her Telegram channel had said that the extortion case was "nonsense" and the Kremlin's attempt to crack down on independent media in Russia.
Who is Ksenia Sobchak?
Ksenia Sobchak is a Russian journalist and the daughter of the former mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. She was rumoured to be the Russian President Vladimir Putin's goddaughter but Sobchak has denied this. Anatoly Sobchak was regarded as Putin's mentor and is often credited for launching the Russian leader's career into mainstream politics. As such, sections of the opposition have mistrusted Ksenia Sobchak because of her longstanding family connection to Putin.
She emerged as a reality TV show and evolved, becoming a prominent political journalist and interviewer. Sobchak also ran for the Russian presidency in 2018, which was seen as a publicity stunt to help the Kremlin create the impression of competitive elections. She also runs a YouTube channel with more than 3.2 million subscribers, has a prominent social media presence, and broadcasts her glamorous personal life and political opinions to 9.4 million followers on Instagram.