Russian TV host and 2018 presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak has fled Russia for Lithuania, Russian state news agency TASS reported Thursday.
Sobchack entered Lithuania using her Israeli passport, according to the country’s State Security Department director Darius Jauniskis.
“Yes, I can confirm that Sobchak is in Lithuania,” TASS cited Jauniskis as saying.
Sobchak left the country after it was revealed on Wednesday that her apartment had been searched as part of the criminal case against her commercial director Kirill Sukhanov, who was detained on extortion charges.
“Our commercial director Kirill Sukhanov has been arrested. They are trying to charge him with extortion,” Sobchak wrote on her Telegram channel Wednesday.
Sobchak denounced this as “nonsense” and an attack on her editorial team.
“I don’t believe [these charges] at all, and I hope that now they will quickly sort everything out and will see that all this is some kind of nonsense,” she said. “If not, then it is obviously a raid on my editorial office – the last free editorial office in Russia, which had to be clamped down.”
Sobchak is a suspect in the case of her director accused of extortion of 11 million rubles (roughly $179,000) from the head of Rostec state corporation Sergei Chemezov, a law enforcement agency source told TASS.
The defense is planning to appeal Sukhanov’s detention, his lawyer Svetlana Lipatova said Wednesday.
Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Sobchak has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was mentored by her late father, reformist politician Anatoly Sobchak, at the start of his political career.
In the 2010s Ksenia Sobchak frequently attended opposition protests and rallies, but lost support from opposition figures after running for the Russian presidency in 2018.
Her decision to run for the presidency was widely criticized by leaders of the Russian opposition, including Alexey Navalny, who accused her campaign of being a sham and labeled her as a “Kremlin project.”