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Vladimir Putin is set to brand his own "goddaughter" a "foreign agent" in a new crackdown against dissidents in Russia.

Ksenia Sobchak, 40, is the leading female opposition politician and also a Russian TV presenter who stood against Putin in the 2018 presidential election.

Sobchak has known Putin since she was a child, with the Russian president having attended her baptism due to a close relationship between the despot and Sobchak's father, Anatoly Sobchak.

Ksenia's father, Anatoli, had been Putin's law professor and mentor who gave the KGB spy his first role in Russian politics as deputy mayor of St Petersburg.

Now the head of the shadowy Public Committee for the Detection of Foreign Intervention, Aleksander Ionov, has said a check is underway to see whether Sobchak was funded from abroad.

Her online media outlet Ostorozhno Novosti is also under investigation.

Ionov said: "If foreign funding is found, Sobchak will become a foreign agent."

Preceding interventions from Russian authorities have seen prominent independent media outlets Meduza and Important Stories branded as "foreign agents" as part of previous Russian crackdowns.

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Posting to her Instagram, which is banned in Russia, Sobchack said that thanks to Ionov she would soon "become a foreign agent."

She continued by saying she was "feeling proud" because to "have your own opinion means absolute freedom."

Russian authorities have continually used the tag of "foreign agent" to crack down on the activities of anti-Putin political and media groups, alleging that the groups or individuals have received funding from Putin's "enemies".

The designation of "foreign agent" means that the individual or group is tied up in red tape and are forced to identify themselves as being influenced by foreign countries, with many being forced into exile abroad.

Sobchak has likened the recent crackdowns to that of Soviet-era crackdowns on dissent, accusing Putin's henchmen of using any laws they can to block her.

She said: "I am Russian, I am a citizen of Russia. I do not emigrate anywhere, I have no other citizenships."

Although Sobchak and Putin have close ties to one another, the opposition politician has strongly opposed Putin's policies in recent years.

Putin was allegedly responsible for smuggling Anatoly Sobchak out of Russia for medical treatment in the West at a time when he was wanted for alleged corruption, and was later pictured alongside Ksenia at the former mayor's funeral in 2000.

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Ksenia Sobchak came fourth in the 2018 presidential election in Russia, which was widely believed to have been heavily rigged in Putin's favour.

Despite being highly critical of Putin, Ksenia, who had earlier posed for Playboy, met with the Russian leader before announcing she would oppose him in the poll.

Ksenia has been vocal about her opposition to the invasion of Ukraine, claiming that Putin was using conscripts in the way in Ukraine despite saying he would not do so.

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  • Vladimir Putin
  • Russia
  • Russia Ukraine war

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