Putin challenger apologizes for election meddling

Ksenia Sobchak, who is challenging Russian Pres. Putin in March's election, says that it "sounds like we really had something to do with" interfering in the 2016 US election.

Posted: Feb 9, 2018 12:35 AM
Updated: Feb 9, 2018 12:38 AM

Ksenia Sobchak, who is challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin in next month's elections, says she believes Russian hackers may have interfered in the 2016 US elections and said she was "sorry" if that was the case.

"It sounds we really had something to do with it," Sobchak told CNN's Christiane Amanpour. "If that's so, I want to say sorry."

"It's unacceptable for any country to meddle into the affairs of another country," she added.

Sobchak is perhaps the highest-profile challenger in an election it is widely assumed Putin will easily win.

Many skeptical analysts of Russian politics have accused her of being an opposition stooge -- allowed to run by the Kremlin in order to legitimize the election. In defense of the claim they cite -- among other things -- the fact that the former TV socialite's father was, as mayor of St. Petersburg, mentor to none other than Putin.

Sobchak rejected that idea.

"They are afraid of Alexei Navalny," she said, speaking of the opposition leader who has been barred from running. But "they are not that much afraid of a blonde girl from TV shows."

"In [a] totalitarian regime, this is in the only kind of thing you can do. You can make someone feel they can underestimate you, and then you do your job."

Navalny has called for Russians to boycott the election. He was prevented from running because of an embezzlement conviction that he and his supporters contend is politically motivated.

Sobchak told Amanpour that boycotting is not an option.

"Let's be logical about this," she said. "Alexei Navalny wanted to take part in those elections."

"So if he would be accepted as a candidate by [the] Kremlin, wouldn't it [legitimize] Putin as well? And then would he call people to boycott? Of course, no."

"He would tell people, 'Go and vote for me, let's show that, okay, we cannot win but millions of us are against Putin.'"

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