Friday 14 December 2018

Russian presidential hopeful Sobchak demands release of political prisoners

Ksenia Sobchak speaks to the media in Moscow (Moscow News Agency/AP)
Ksenia Sobchak speaks to the media in Moscow (Moscow News Agency/AP)
Journalists watch a video stream of a news conference by Ksenia Sobchak (AP)

A Russian TV host who wants to become a presidential candidate has opened her first news conference by demanding the release of all political prisoners.

Ksenia Sobchak announced her presidential bid last week, arguing that Russia has grown tired of its political elite.

Critics said her run would further fragment the opposition while lending the March election a veneer of legitimacy.

Ms Sobchak is the 35-year-old daughter of President Vladimir Putin's mentor, former St Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak. Her mother is a legislator at the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament.

She first became known as a fashionable socialite before launching a successful TV career.

She has joined anti-Kremlin protests and has been often critical of the government, but she has largely avoided criticising Mr Putin.

He has not yet said whether he will seek re-election but he is widely expected to run.

Speaking in a packed room, Ms Sobchak told reporters that at least 30% of Russians remain without representation and voting for her should change that.

She has named Igor Malashenko, one of the pioneers of post-Soviet television and the man behind the 1996 re-election of Boris Yeltsin, as her campaign chief.

Ms Sobchak would not say how much she expects the campaign to cost, saying only that she planned to receive funding from anonymous businessmen.

Press Association

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