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Opposition Feud Flares Up As Sobchak Confronts Navalny Ally On Air 

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny (left) and presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak (file photo)
Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny (left) and presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak (file photo)

MOSCOW -- A low-level Twitter spat between Russian opposition camps got more close and personal on January 15 when presidential hopeful Ksenia Sobchak burst into the studio of a radio talk show as it was hosting would-be candidate Aleksei Navalny's campaign manager.

As the Ekho Moskvy program was preparing to go on air, Sobchak confronted Leonid Volkov, accusing the Navalny camp of lying by supporting the notion she had chosen to host a glamorous corporate party for a Russian billionaire in Bali earlier this month rather than campaigning.

Two camera operators who were flanking Sobchak recorded the incident for posterity.

"I would simply like for Leonid to apologize on camera and say, 'Yes, I made a mistake'. It's that easy, Leonid," she said as she stood over him.

Looking slightly uncomfortable, Volkov reached for a glass of water and typed away at his laptop as Sobchak scolded him before ultimately declining to apologize. "You're lying," he countered, asking her to leave the studio. "You aren't being rude to me, you're being rude to viewers, Ekho Moskvy's listeners and the station."

Sobchak left without an apology, saying: "Make sure you check your information next time so that you don't look so pathetic."

A Twitter post circulated on January 11 by Navalny allies alleged that Sobchak had hosted a corporate party in Bali instead of collecting signatures for her presidential bid. Volkov, specifically, accused her of deliberately falsifying the geotags in her publicly released photos in order to cover her tracks and conceal her real location.

She has strenuously denied the allegation, saying she traveled to Bali merely to raise funds for her campaign, and has been traveling constantly to meet with supporters.

'Caricature Liberal Candidate'

Sobchak has made it through the preliminary registration phase for taking part in the elections, although she must still produce the requisite number of signatures of support to officially be named a candidate.

Navalny, the anticorruption campaigner and by far the opposition's most prominent figure, has been barred from running against incumbent President Vladimir Putin in the March 18 elections. Navalny is calling on his supporters to boycott the vote entirely, and to campaign for others to do so as well.

Navalny has criticized Sobchak's bid, calling her an unelectable "caricature liberal candidate" whose candidacy the Kremlin is using to project the illusion of an open electoral process while simultaneously discrediting true opposition candidates.

Chiding Sobchak for collaring Volkov on air, Navalny alluded to Sobchak's past as the celebrity host of Dom-2, a reality TV dating show. "You can take the girl out of Dom-2, but you can't take the Dom-2 out of the girl," Navalny wrote on Twitter.