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Russian celebrity flees country to Lithuania after house search

Russian media figure Ksenia Sobchak is in Lithuania after entering the country on her Israeli passport, the head of Lithuania’s counter-intelligence service said on Thursday, a day after Russian police searched one of her houses.

Ms Sobchak is famous in Russia where she has taken on various journalistic, celebrity and political roles over the years and has long-standing family connections to President Vladimir Putin.

The property belonging to Ms Sobchak, 40, was searched on Wednesday by Russian police as part of a criminal case against her commercial director, the state-owned news agency TASS reported, citing law enforcement agencies, who said she herself was not a suspect.

The woman suggested on her Telegram channel that the case that triggered the search was politically-motivated and linked to a documentary she had made on the use of torture in Russian prisons.

Director of the State Security Department (VSD) Darius Jauniškis has confirmed that #Russian journalist and socialite Ksenia #Sobchak has arrived in #Lithuania.

— Northern Europe (@europe_northern) October 27, 2022
TASS earlier this month reported that Ms Sobchak herself faced a criminal investigation over a story she had done that police suspect was “fake”, though suggested the subject of the offending material was the “state funding of festivals.”

Ksenia Sobchak is the daughter of the late Anatoly Sobchak, St Petersburg’s mayor in the 1990s, who was Vladimir Putin’s boss and friend. The two families had close ties, sometimes holidaying together.

🧵 Ksenia #Sobchak is Putin's Goddaughter. Her parents were influential politicians in the inner circle. Her family vacationed with #Putin when she was a child. Years ago, as a journalist, she had asked Putin during public Q&A about Vladimir Osechkin's work on prison tortures.

— Igor Sushko (@igorsushko) October 27, 2022
Her long-standing family connection to the Russian strongman has been a source of suspicion among parts of the anti-Kremlin oppositionists, much of whom resides now outside Russia, despite her own involvement with the movement at times.

TASS had reported, citing law enforcement sources, that Ms Sobchak had left Russia on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, crossing the Belarusian-Lithuanian border, after tricking the Russian authorities by purchasing – but not using – plane tickets from Moscow to Turkey and Dubai.

The woman ran for the Russian presidency in 2018, winning less than 2 percent of the vote, in what her critics derided as a publicity stunt that helped the Kremlin create the impression inside Russia that the election, won by Vladimir Putin, was competitive.

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