Russia’s homegrown version of Paris Hilton has announced she is to stand against Vladimir Putin in next year’s presidential election.
Reality TV star Ksenia Sobchak said she hopes to appeal to the growing number of liberal voters unhappy with Putin’s many years in office.
Opinion polls show Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for nearly two decades, will win reelection comfortably if he decides to seek what would be his fourth term in March.
However, a significant minority of voters accuse him of overseeing a corrupt system that has isolated Russia from the rest of the world.
Many of them have taken part in mass protests organized by Putin critic Alexei Navalny.
Russian officials say Navalny is ineligible to run for president due to a criminal conviction which has left an opening for a genuine opponent.
Sobchak is seen by many as an alternative option to those that have had enough of Putin.
The reality TV star, who has been described by Vogue magazine as the Russian version of socialite Paris and is the daughter of Putin’s former mentor, said she had decided to run because she was tired of the same politicians, including Putin, running year after year.
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The 35-year-old said she had the right to run for Russia’s top political job under the country’s constitution, which stipulates that all candidates must be 35 or older.
“I decided to exercise that right because I am against all of those (candidates) who usually exercise that right,” she said.
“When I was 18 and was studying in university, Vladimir Putin became president of Russia. Children who were born that year will go and vote themselves this year. Just think about that.”
But some Russian liberals fear Sobchak’s participation will play into the Kremlin’s hands by splitting the opposition vote.
Sobchak is the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak, the reformist former mayor of St. Petersburg who hired Putin as an official in City Hall in the 1990s.
Sobchak, who died in 2000, became a mentor to Putin. Sobchak’s mother, Lyudmila Narusova, sits in the upper house of the Russian parliament.
Sobchak’s Instagram account, often featuring photographs of her dressed in designer outfits and appearing at glitzy society events, has 5.2 million followers.
After graduating from the prestigious MGIMO University in Moscow, she became a nationwide celebrity when she hosted a Russian reality TV show called Dom 2.
She became active in opposition politics around the time that Putin, in 2012, was reelected to the presidency after stepping down for four years to comply with constitutional term limits.
She appeared at opposition rallies, spoke out against the Kremlin on social media, and recast herself as a news anchor for the Rain broadcaster.