Ksenia Sobchak is challenging Vladimir Putin for the presidency. Some say she's a fake candidate, running to boost the Kremlin's democratic credentials.
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Sarah Campbell, BBC News.
It just warms the heart.
Now on BBC News, Our World.
In Moscow nightclub, the opposition
candidate makes her pitch to the
country. Russian democracy is a
strange and sometimes dangerous
It is a fake election.
a fake election?
Yes, I am always
How do you mean?
mean like any casino. The win is
always on the house. In Russia it is
always on that it didn't side. -- it
is or is on Vladimir Putin's side.
So I'm not trained to win, I just
want to be heard. -- it is always
Once upon a time, in the former
capital of the czars, eight girl was
born with a silver spoon in the MoU.
-- a. When the Soviet empire
collapsed, so it was turned into
gold for some. Ksenia Sobchak's
family was among those view. Her
father, one of the founders of
Russia's new democracy, became the
Mayor of St Petersburg. He would
later die in uncertain
circumstances, while his former
deputy, a once unknown KGB officer,
would become the most powerful man
It was a person who gave
but admitted his first job. --
Vladimir Putin his first job.
a strange twist of fate, nearly two
decades later, the girl with the
silver spoon would challenge the new
star for the highest office in the
land. -- czar.
350 miles south of Moscow, the city
of cause. Ksenia Sobchak is on the
campaign trail. -- Anatoly Sobchak.
Her purpose here is to talk to would
The biggest problem
in Russia is not freedom of speech.
Unfortunately, for many people, it
is the poverty.
Out in the suburbs,
residents have been complaining they
cannot get their children into a
Ksenia Sobchak herself is the mother
of a young child, and she is hoping
that will help connect with these
voters. And now she is haranguing
some local officials. This is pretty
much what but it did and does when
he goes around. -- Vladimir Putin.
Had fillet people react to Europe,
coming as you do, from a privileged
You know, I don't try to
be like, I am late one of you,
because it is not true. -- how do
you feel people. If I wear red
lipstick in my ordinary time, why
should I take an offer them. So I am
not a populist. I come in a good car
and in good clothes, but they are is
money, I did not steal it.
Corruption is a big issue in this
election for all candidates. After a
slightly optimistic welcome at local
campaign headquarters, Ksenia
Sobchak take things one step
In Russian politics, there are
certain red lines. Among them,
People, and his inner circle. --
Putin and his inner circle. Direct
criticism of Vladimir Putin seems
dangerous, and many people do not
want to know. But Anatoly Ksenia
Sobchak's Jenny Shin dissidents has
been an unusual one.
-- Ksenia Sobchak's rise to
dissidents. In the first decade of
this century, as many Russians
struggled, Ksenia Sobchak
transformed herself from society
rich kid to television celebrity.
Leading the masses a diet of reality
television and branding herself
television and branding herself
simply Ksenia. But then the girl
with the silver spoon had a valid
transformation. In 2011, she joined
opposition protests and was properly
carted off to a police cell. Alexei
Navalny, the movement's leader, has
long been a thorn in the
I was close with
him for many years. We shared many
values and we still share many of
those values, I hope.
But when a
Alexei Navalny was banned from
standing in this year's collections,
Ksenia Sobchak announced that she
was running instead. Proponents said
that she was a Kremlin agent, just
more reality television. -- her
opponents. Could that be true? Could
it be that Ksenia Sobchak is doing
the Kremlin's bidding? I paid a
visit to her campaign headquarters
to meet one of her top advisers, a
woman well versed in the darker arts
of Russian politics. She should be.
She used to work for Vladimir Putin
Just to be clear, this is Ksenia
Sobchak's own campaign advisers
saying yes, we are plainly Kremlin's
game. But in Russia, there is always
more than one game going on.
And that is exactly what Ksenia
Sobchak says she is trying to do. If
there is one thing that Ksenia
Sobchak understands, it is the power
of television. She is using her
candidacy to talk about the blue
issues. -- issues that are taboo. To
see this on state television is
heresy. Genuinely subversive.
Shocked presenters have resorted to
surreal measures to try and run her
out. But here is the conundrum: The
Kremlin controls everything. Who
gets to stand in elections, and who
gets to go on television. So what is
going on? Ksenia Sobchak treads a
delicate path. Before she set out on
her journey, the girl with the
silver spoon needed to get the
approval of the czar in the Kremlin.
She needed wise counsel.
Alexei Navalny's is one of Russia's
most famous and well respected
journalist. -- Alexei is. As it
happens, Ksenia Sobchak is in the
process of making a film about her
father, the former mayor. But it
didn't agree to an interview. In
September, she went to see him in
the Kremlin. -- Ksenia Sobchak
agreed to an interview. I said I was
there to challenge.
And he was
silent for a second, then said,
well, that is your decision. But it
is your responsibility.
think you by that?
I don't even want
to think about that. I don't think
And so the czar
decided to accept this challenge.
But not everybody was happy. Behind
the facade of monolithic power,
different factions struggled for
How indeed? Had had the girl who
spoke out against the czar get
permission to run against an? The
answer to this riddle lies buried in
the past, when Vladimir Putin worked
for me to one's father in St
Petersburg. -- Ksenia Sobchak's
Perhaps it should more accurately be
titled the Museum of how Russian
Democracy was poisoned at Source.
The name Anatoly Sobchak stands
alongside the likes of Gorbachev and
The story of how the anti-Soviet
reformer chosen and skewer KGB
officer as his deputy is also the
story of how factions from the old
Soviet security establishment have
come to be running Russia today. --
obscure KGB officer.
Anatoly Sobchak was voted out of
office in 1996 amid allegations of
corruption. While his political
fortunes declined, he is deputies
were on the rise. Putin moved to
Moscow and got a job in the Kremlin.
When anticorruption investigators
called Sobchak in for questioning,
Putin personally helped spirit him
out of the country.
With Sobchak Don, the investigation
ground to a halt. -- gone. A few
years later an independent
journalist in Saint Petersburg had
an unexpected visitor. A man by the
name of Yuri claims to have the
details of the Sobchak
He had aid dossier, I didn't take it
into my room is, I didn't open it.
-- a dossier.
Why would a journalist
not want to read the dossier? The
answer is self reservation. Not long
after this, Yuri was charged with
murder. When a judge dismissed the
case due to lack of evidence, armed
officers burst into the courtroom
and rearrested him. He ended his
days in a remote prison colony.
knew too much. He used to work for
Sobchak. And because... He was
dangerous, when he was three.
Sobchak was already out of the
picture. Why was he still dangerous?
He was dangerous to someone around
Sobchak, someone who was very close
to Sobchak. I suspect that he was
dangerous to fit in as well.
dangerous to Putin. In the course of
making a film about her father,
Ksenia Sobchak got hold of
classified investigation files. She
says the case was cooked up I
hardliners to discredit her father.
But she does confirm for the first
time that Vladimir Putin was
questioned as part of the
All those interviews
and investigations with him, with
Putin, they look very professional.
It is a fact that they found
nothing, they were very
disappointed. They didn't succeed.
In Moscow, factions were
manoeuvring. Putin was being groomed
as the successor to Boris Yeltsin.
The battle was over who would have
sway over the new leader. In
February 2000, Anatoly Sobchak died
suddenly at the age of 62. At the
funeral, Russia's new president was
That was the first and
last time everybody saw him crying
in Russia. I still remember it. One
of the shocks I had was his
reaction. He was totally killed
But what killed Savchuk? To this
day, that remains a mystery. The
original autopsy was inconclusive,
and many were suspicious, including
Sobchak's widow, Ksenia's mother.
She had her own autopsy performed
but instead of making the results
public, she keeps them locked in a
safe in a secret location.
Today, the Kremlin is still a place
of rival factions. To threaten their
power is to take a terrible risk.
The girl with the silver spoon is
not a girl any more. Her family
history may protect her, but only up
to a point.
Meanwhile, are, Sobchak campaign
From public transport to pensions to
childcare, Ksenia listens to
people's everyday problems as if she
were a real candidate in a real
And the passengers on this trolley
bus know all about her family ties.
What, then, is the purpose of all
this elaborately it? If Ksenia is a
threat to the regime, why let her
run at all? I have spoken to a
senior government official on the
condition I could not quote them by
name. I said, what is the point of
having an election when everybody
acknowledges only one person can
win? They said, look, this is a
western invention that you have. We
do have a classical democracy in
Russia. We have what is called a
developing democracy. The truth is,
Russian democracy has stopped
developing. It is frozen. Paralysed
by two certain facts: just as surely
as Putin will win the next election,
he will also not be around forever.
Behind the walls of the Kremlin,
powerful people are playing games.
Ksenia Sobchak is a pawn. Some
factions are pushing forward. Others
want to hold her back. The girl with
the silver spoon knows all this. But
she thinks the pawn just might
That is my chess game.
I'd play this option of going to
elections, because I was thinking
that I had the chance of going
through, because of my name, because
they underestimate me, because I
have a past which they can always
put on me, because they are not
afraid of me as much as a Alexei
Who is the better
chessplayer, you were President
I don't know. We will see in
the end. But the end is not me. I am
only starting. -- the end is not
Ksenia Sobchak is young, wealthy and famous. Her father helped bring down the Soviet Union. Now she's challenging ex-KGB officer Vladimir Putin for the Russian presidency. A perfect pedigree Perhaps. But some say she's a fake candidate, running a no-hope race to boost the Kremlin's democratic credentials. Gabriel Gatehouse travels to Russia to unravel a tale of family loyalties, a death in suspicious circumstances, and double dealings in the quest for power.