Russian 'It Girl' Ksenia Sobchak announces Kremlin bid

Former reality television star Ksenia Sobchak is a news anchor for for opposition network TV RAIN

TV host Ksenia Sobchak did not hold consultations with Russian President Vladimir Putin on her plans to run the presidential election, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS.

Last month, commenting on rumours that Ms Sobchak would run, Mr Navalny complained that she was being used by the Kremlin as a safe lightning conductor for voters' dissatisfaction.

Sobchak - whose Instagram account often features photographs of her in designer clothes and has more than 5 million followers - now hosts a popular talk show on TV Dozhd, an independent online channel.

Ksenia's late father, Anatoly Sobchak, was a famous Russian politician, the first democratically elected mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1990s.

"I made a decision to exercise that right because I am against all of those [candidates] who usually exercise that right", she said.

Sobchak described her plans in detail in a letter to the Vedomosti newspaper.

Ms Sobchak, who is also a journalist and TV presenter, called for the bar on him standing to be lifted.

However, Navalny has been convicted of criminal charges - which he and his supporters say have been politically motivated - and is therefore by Russian law not allowed to run.

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The presidential election in Russian Federation will take place on March 18, 2018.

She was being drawn into "this fairly loathsome Kremlin game that goes by the title of: "Let's put a liberal laughing-stock up for the elections in order to distract attention", Mr Navalny said.

Sobchak's announcement ends weeks of speculation about her political ambitions. However, only 34 percent said they would like a woman to become the president of Russian Federation in the next 10-15 years.

She has since married actor Maxim Vitorgan and they have a son.

She said she wanted to be "a mouthpiece for those who can not be candidates".

"She should withdraw if Navalny isn't allowed to run, as a protest", wrote Marat Guelman, a former Kremlin spin doctor turned Putin critic, on Facebook. The Kremlin says Putin will make an "important announcement" Thursday during the annual Valdai forum in Sochi.

The Kremlin welcomed her candidacy, saying it was fully constitutional.

But some Russian liberals fear Ms Sobchak's participation will play into the Kremlin's hands by splitting the opposition vote. To be registered, candidates need to either represent a political party, or - as in the case with Ksenia Sobchak - collect at least 300,000 signatures. Aside from Navalny, only Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the ultra-nationalist LDPR party, has publicly declared his intention to run for president.

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