Hours after police raided her home, new footage appears to show Vladimir Putin’s rumored goddaughter fleeing to the West on foot to avoid arrest.
Ksenia Sobchak, a 40-year-old TV star and opposition politician who has been critical of Putin, was reportedly spotted crossing the Belarusian border into NATO member Lithuania at the Vidzy border crossing 166 kilometers north of Minsk.
CCTV footage appears to show Sobcak crossing the border with an unknown man while wearing a mask and a cap.
The extraordinary video appears to have been leaked from Belarusian border cameras, and Lithuania confirmed today that Sobchak entered the Baltic nation using an Israeli passport.
Sobchak, who has known Putin since she was a child, fled Russia for Belarus before entering Lithuania hours after Russian investigators raided her opulent home in a prestigious suburb of Moscow.
The search of her home, according to the police, was part of an investigation into alleged wrongdoing by her media director, Kirill Sukhanov, who was arrested on extortion charges.
Tuesday, Sobchak dismissed the allegations against Sukhanov as “ravings and nonsense” and characterized his arrest as part of the government’s efforts to stifle independent media.
CCTV footage from the Belarusian border reportedly shows a man carrying Sobchak’s bag and, at one point, looking back to see if they are being followed.
At one point, the man appears to advise Sobhak to lower her head in order to avoid being filmed.
The video appears to show Sobhak passing through Belarus passport control on Wednesday at 13.32 local time and informing a border control officer that she is bound for Lithuania.
Sobchak is then seen carrying her own bag to the actual frontier accompanied by two uniformed men.
The video was likely leaked with official approval to a Three Sisters Telegram channel with fewer than 2,000 subscribers.
It has ties to the security apparatus of Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus.
Darius Jaunikis, director of the State Security Department (VSD) in Lithuania, confirmed Sobcak’s entry into the country.
He told Zhinyu Radijas that she was an Israeli citizen who could enter without a visa and stay for 90 days without one.
He stated, “We have no intelligence indicating that she poses a threat to the Lithuanian state.”
‘Of course, if such information existed, certain actions would be taken.’
Earlier in the conflict, Sobchak traveled to Israel and back to Russia, but she denied at the time that she was issued an Israeli passport.
Due to Putin’s war, Lithuania now routinely denies Russians access.
CCTV footage appears to show Sobchak crossing the Belarusian-Lithuanian border without any attempts by Belarusian authorities to prevent her departure.
This is despite the fact that, according to Russian sources, Sobchak was wanted as a suspect in connection with a criminal investigation in Moscow involving her business associate, an investigation she feels was politically motivated but which might have resulted in a 15-year prison sentence.
Separately, Russian political scientist Sergei Markov asserted that a ‘high-ranking official’ informed Sobchak that her arrest was imminent.
According to him, this led to her leaving Russia.
The report by Russian state media that she had departed Belarus for Lithuania came barely 36 minutes after the Belarus border officer had seemingly authorized her departure.
This may indicate that Putin gave her implicit permission to flee to the West, preferring that his ‘goddaughter’ not be detained among his other political opponents.
According to reports, Sobchak purchased plane tickets to both Turkey and Dubai to ‘confuse’ state authorities seeking her arrest.
Using her Israeli identity, she then drove to Belarus and fled to the West in a “clever operational escape plan” to avoid capture.
Sobchak, a socialite-turned-politician, was once referred to as the Paris Hilton of Moscow.
She was a well-known reality TV host who had posed for Playboy.
She presented the Russian version of Big Brother before running as a liberal candidate against Putin in the 2018 presidential election, which was rigged in his favor and in which she finished fourth.
She is one of the most recognizable faces in Russia, and she now operates independent media outlets that have angered Putin’s officials.
Putin has known her since she was a child and attended her baptism in the Orthodox Church, causing rumors that he is her godfather.
Putin’s law professor and mentor, Anatoly Sobchak, later gave the KGB spy his first political foothold as his deputy when he served as mayor of St. Petersburg.
Putin later smuggled Ksenia’s father out of Russia for medical treatment in the West, at a time when his patron was being accused of corruption by his opponents.
Putin was later photographed alongside Ksenia and her mother Lyudmila Narusova, a Russian senator who opposes the war in Ukraine, at the funeral of the former mayor in 2000.
In the Russian parliament, Narusova voted against war-related legislation and accused state television of “shameless lies” regarding the conflict.
Despite her criticism of Putin, Ksenia met with the Russian leader privately before announcing she would oppose him in the election.
This led to allegations that she was conspiring with him to lend legitimacy to a fraudulent election.
Putin’s police have harassed Ksenia Sobchak despite her close familial ties.
She fled Russia via Belarus hours after police conducted a search of her luxurious country estate near Moscow.
This was related to a murky criminal investigation that led to the Tuesday arrests of her commercial director Kirill Sukhanov and a former editor of Russian Tatler, Arian Romanovsky, on blackmail charges.
Sobchak was named as a suspect in the same case, which involved “extortion to get property on a massive scale.”
The guys, who face terms of up to 15 years, were seen on camera in court.
Sobchak would have been brought to court on the same charge had she not fled.
It was stated that police were attempting to detain Sobchak at a VIP airport in Moscow when news broke that she had reached the West by land.
The claimed victim of the ‘blackmail’ was Sergey Chemezov, CEO of Rostec Corporation, who was Putin’s close KGB comrade during the Cold War and with whom he has maintained a tight relationship ever since.
Sobchak described Sukhanov’s incarceration as’mere madness,’ adding, ‘It is ludicrous, nonsense.’
The actions constituted “further repression” of her and the Russian media.
She stated that her media outlets were “the only free media channels in Russia,” which Putin’s dictatorship had determined to “shut down.”
Putin’s officials “have nothing to dig on us, which infuriates them,” she claimed.
When the specifics of the criminal case became public, pro-Putin propagandist Sergei Mardan urged her to depart.
“The soil is burning beneath Sobchak, and the best way out would be to shift her nation of residency and citizenship at the same moment,” he wrote.
Perhaps the imprisonment of Kirill Sukhanov and the searches at Sobchak’s residence are a subtle message “from above” that her continued presence on Russian soil is undesirable.
There are no longer any untouchables, according to political scientist Sergei Markov.
The departure of Sobchak, who was both beloved and despised, resulted in social media trolling accusing her of abandoning her homeland.
She has previously refuted rumors that she secretly held Israeli citizenship and swore she would not leave Russia.
In the footage, she appeared to leave Belarus using a Russian passport.
She has previously stated, “I am Russian and a Russian citizen.”
I do not emigrate and hold no additional citizenships.
Since there is no passport control between “union state” Russia and Belarus, the Vidzy crossing served as her point of departure from Russia.
In recent weeks, several fugitives from Putin’s mobilization have utilized Belarus as a transit point.