Two Weeks After Leaving, Sobchak Reportedly Returns To Russia

By RFE/RL's Russian Service

Russian journalist and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak has reportedly returned to Russia, almost two weeks after she left to avoid possible arrest.

Several Russian media outlets reported on November 7 that the 40-year-old Sobchak, the daughter of late St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, President Vladimir Putin's political mentor, had returned via a border checkpoint in the Pskov region with neighboring Latvia.

Sobchak's mother, Federation Council member Lyudmila Narusova and lawyer Sergei Badamshin declined to comment.

Sobchak left Russia on October 25 for Lithuania via Belarus hours before investigators planned to detain her on unspecified charges after searching her house in the upscale town of Gorki-8 near Moscow as part of an extortion probe launched against her associate Kirill Sukhanov, who was detained a day earlier.

Sobchak left Russia on an Israeli passport.

Sukhanov is the commercial director of Sobchak's "Ostorozhno.Media" holding.

On October 28, the state news agency TASS, citing sources, reported that the Ministry of Internal Affairs had canceled the decision to bring in Sobchak as a suspect in the extortion case.

Sobchak, who has positioned herself as an opposition figure for years, has called Sukhanov's arrest "another instance of pressure against the media" in Russia.

She ran against Putin in 2018 but many in Russia viewed her as a person close to the Russian president and his government.

Opposition politician Aleksei Navalny at the time of the election accused Sobchak of helping the Kremlin slap a veneer of democracy on an election he has dismissed as "the reappointment of [President] Vladimir Putin."

Sobchak defended her decision to run and proposed that the two join forces.

Navalny was barred from the ballot due to a financial-crimes conviction he contends was fabricated by the Kremlin.

He is currently in prison after violating the terms of the sentence he was handed for the conviction.

Navalny's violation was for leaving the country when he was medically evacuated in a coma after being poisoned with what Western laboratories say was a Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent.

Navalny has blamed Putin for the poison attack. The Kremlin has denied any involvement.