Vladimir Putin's socialite goddaughter Ksenia Sobchak flees Russia

Sobchak was named as a suspect in an extortion case shortly before she left the country

Former presidential candidate and TV star Ksenia Sobchak attends a news conference in Moscow in 2018. AP
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Ksenia Sobchak, a Russian socialite and TV personality, has fled the country after being named as a suspect in an extortion case, state media reported on Wednesday.

A popular media personality and journalist, Sobchak is reportedly President Vladimir Putin's goddaughter. Her father, the late Saint Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak, was once Mr Putin's boss.

Sobchak “departed Moscow during the night”, a police source told news agency Tass.

The source said she left Russia through Belarus to enter Lithuania.

Tass and state-run channel RT cited law enforcement sources as saying Sobchak was suspected of large-scale extortion, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The agency earlier said her villa outside Moscow was searched in connection with a case against her commercial director, Arian Romanovsky.

Putin's inner circle — in pictures

Sobchak has for years been involved in Russian opposition politics, though she remains a divisive figure among Mr Putin critics.

The 40-year-old ran for the presidency against Mr Putin in 2018, with Russian opposition politicians accusing her of being used by the Kremlin as a spoiler candidate.

Thousands of Russians have fled the country since Mr Putin launched an attack on Ukraine in February, with a second wave leaving after he announced a military mobilisation on September 21.

Updated: October 27, 2022, 12:04 AM