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Meet the 'Russian Paris Hilton' running against Vladimir Putin for president



You may not have heard of Ksenia Sobchak, but she's one of the most popular TV personalities in Russia, and now she is taking on none other than Vladimir Putin himsef in the country's upcoming presidential election.

Sobchak shocked the country when she announced her campaign via YouTube last week. The 35-year-old Russian socialite has since sparked international interest, and even caused some internal turmoil among the Russian opposition.

"As any other Russian citizen, I have now the right to run for president. I decided to use this right. If only because I'm against everybody who has usually used this right," said Sobchak in her announcement video.

Sobchak announces campaign to run for president of Russia

The former reality TV star has branded herself as the candidate "against everyone." The brash image is classic Sobchak; she made a name for herself with her sharp tongue and snarky wit.

Her time spent on reality TV earned her a comparison to Paris Hilton, but Sobchak's ambition led her to transition into a career as a TV anchor for Russia's Dohzd (TV Rain) in 2011. She has has also used her fame to speak out in support of several political causes, most notably the 2011 marches protesting Russia's parliamentary elections results.

Sobchak's transition to politics should come as no surprise. Politics is in her blood. Her mother, Lyudmila Narusova, serves in Russia's upper parliament. Her father, Anatoly, was the first democratically elected mayor of St. Petersburg -- and a mentor to Putin himself.

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While Sobchak is notably critical of the Kremlin, she avoids taking on Putin directly. She has claimed she told the Russian leader that she would be running against him in the election during an interview.

"I had an impression he didn't like it," said Sobchak.

While the world has become fascinated with the clever, attractive TV host, not everyone in Russia's opposition is pleased with her decision to run. Alexei Navalny, Russia's most notable opposition leader, referred to Sobchak as "cartoonish" and a distraction. He warned that her entrance in the race would play into the Kremlin's hands. Navalny himself wants to enter the race, however, his criminal conviction (which he claimed is politcally motivated) technically prevents him from doing so.

Regardless, Sobchak has already taken some controversial stances. She has demanded that the government release political prisoners and end persecution of political dissidents. Sobchak also weighed in on Russia's controversial annexation of Crimea.

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"From the point of view of international law, Crimea belongs to Ukraine. Period," she said during a press conference.

Sobchak's road to Moscow won't be an easy one. Putin's approval ratings are more than 80 percent, and though he has not announced his candidacy, he is expected to run in the March 2018 election.

That said, Sobchak has the political pedigree, fame, and even some business interest interests she has claimed are interested in supporting her campaign.

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