“I am not a professional politician, I am a journalist, a public figure,” said Ksenia Sobchak during a press conference at Moscow’s Stanislavsky Electrotheatre, her first since announcing she was entering the Russian presidential election race in 2018.
Less than a week ago Sobchak, daughter of the first democratically elected mayor of Saint Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak, announced her bid for the presidency on a special episode of her “Sobchak Live” show on the opposition-leaning TV Rain news channel.
She also sent a letter to the daily Vedomosti news site outlining her reasons for running against Putin.
Sobchak seemed calm and in her grey suit, she looked like she could begin hosting the television program at any moment.
But she was on stage to present her political program and to silence the critics who accused her of being part of a Kremlin plot.
“You can laugh at me but I understand show business. My job is to rewrite the rules of the show – to bring a new face to the show,” she told journalists.
After her address, it was Sobchak’s slogan “against” that echoed around the theatre.
She said she was “against everyone and against Vladimir Putin,” reiterating this message on a laptop sticker which read “I (am) against” in Russian.
The same slogan hung on the theatre walls and was handed out the journalists upon arrival, reminiscent of Navalny’s “2018” campaign.
“Of course, for some Putin is a tyrant and dictator, others consider him Russia’s saviour. But I’m in a difficult position. Putin helped my dad and practically saved his life.
“I am against the fact that any person, including Putin, should be in power for 18 years,” she added.
Vladimir Putin was not the only topic debated, for if Sobchak were to have appeared unprepared for questions about the Ukrainian situation, the annexation of the Crimean peninsula or Aleksey Navalny, this would have cost her dearly.
“The situation in Ukraine will be one of the main issues in my campaign and on the subject of Crimea, according to international law, it is Ukraine’s. Period,” said Sobchak.
Sobchak showed her support for Aleksey Navalny: “Aleksey and I are friends,” she told journalists, adding that “if he is allowed in the race, I will join his team.”
However, the path to the presidency will not be easy for “Russia’s Paris Hilton”.
In order for Sobchak to get her name on ballot papers, she will need to collect 300,000 signatures from Russian citizens.
“The campaign will collect names and send volunteers directly to people to get the necessary signatures,” she said during the conference, adding that she will make public appearances to convince Russians to vote for her, having already scheduled a meeting in Yekaterinburg, southwest Russia.
It took less than a week for Sobchak to announce the team that will work with her both online and on the campaign trail.
Among her choices was Igor Malashenko as her campaign manager, which surprised journalists.
Malashenko was president of NTV, an independent television channel fronted by a group of leading television journalists, until joining Boris Yeltsin’s campaign team in his bid for presidential victory in 1996.
Sobchak also appeared confident when asked about foreign policy: “We don’t need to be afraid. We need to be loved.
“I like men who stand for equality and support more women in politics, and Trump may not be the person I sympathise with but this does not matter because the important thing it is to develop economic cooperations,” she said.
“Today, relations with America are complicated. The Cold War was a nightmare for me and now we are in a difficult situation again.
“I think we have to build stable and friendly relations with world powers,” she concluded.
Maria Michela D’Alessandro for Euronews