Russian presidential hopeful and television personality Ksenia Sobchak says she wants to make her country’s “extremely intolerant” society and political system more open and democratic.
"I'm joining the campaign in order to reach out to millions of people in our country and to show what democracy in action means, to show that the state could be shaped differently," Sobchak said in an interview published on November 17 by the AP.
Sobchak has announced plans to run in the March 2018 presidential election as a “candidate against all others."
President Vladimir Putin has yet to say if he will run for reelection, although most observers expect he will and that he will win easily.
Critics of the 36-year-old Sobchak -- including liberal opposition Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinsky -- say her effort to run plays into the hands of the Kremlin, merely giving the appearance of a democratic process by having another well-known person on the ballot.
Sobchak is the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak, the reformist mayor of St. Petersburg in the early 1990s and a mentor to Putin.
Still, Sobchak has irked some Kremlin supporters with comments saying that Crimea is legally part of Ukraine despite its annexation by Moscow. She has also called for the resignation of top Russian officials she says are responsible for the country’s sports-doping scandal.
"I want to say: 'Friends...I want you to vote against this system that suppresses people, cheats us, and always places the state above an individual," Sobchak told the AP.
"One of the most important problems of today's Russia is that society is extremely intolerant," she said. "Combating xenophobia, fear of others is one of the most important goals for us."
Sobchak rejected Kremlin claims of U.S. meddling in Russian politics, saying interference by foreign players could not significantly impact domestic affairs.
"Problems in our country haven't been caused by [U.S. President] Donald Trump, America, and its ambitions or CIA spies,” she added. “Our problems are rooted in a bad government system and the lack of free elections, independent courts, and freedom of speech."
Aleksei Navalny, Russia's most well-known opposition politician, also has declared his intention to run in the March election, although the authorities are blocking his candidacy based on a criminal conviction Navalny says is politically motivated.
With reporting by the AP