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Sobchak could be prosecuted for saying Crimea is Ukraine

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The letter from the Prosecutor-General’s Office and Sobchak’s post on Instagram

by Sarah Hurst

Ksenia Sobchak, the liberal TV presenter running for president who has been criticised for playing into the hands of the Kremlin, is being threatened with prosecution over her comments on Crimea. Sobchak posted a letter on Instagram from the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office to Ruslan Ostashko, the editor of a video-blogging website called POLITRUSSIA, promising to investigate his complaint about Sobchak saying at a press conference that Crimea is Ukraine.

Ostashko recently made a video on his site called “Google introduces censorship against RT.” Other videos include “The State Department recognises the US as a dictatorship”, “Poland is leaving democracy and the EU is leaving Poland”, and “How can Russia break out of isolation?” The site is very professionally produced, which suggests it has some kind of funding. It looks like something that could have been set up to make pro-Kremlin blogging seem cool and independent for young people who might potentially vote for Sobchak or Navalny.

Journalist sentenced

Vladimir Zhirinovsky (now also running for president) was the first to call for Sobchak to be prosecuted over her recognition of Crimea as Ukrainian. Indeed, such a statement does now amount to “separatism” in the warped Russian legal view. In September 66-year-old Crimean journalist Mykola Semena, an RFE/RL contributor, was found guilty of separatism for writing that Crimea is Ukraine and given a 2 ½-year suspended sentence, as well as being banned from public activities, including journalism, for three years.

To her credit, Sobchak has not backed off from her stance. No matter what else she can be criticised for, this is impressive. She wrote on Instagram: “This is just one example of how telling the truth in our country is a crime, apparently. It is a fact that Russia violated the Budapest Memorandum. It’s true! So it turns out that speaking the truth is extremism? Not to mention the fact that we can’t rent premises for a meeting with supporters either in Moscow or in Tver – everywhere at the last minute ‘the air conditioner breaks’ or ‘an urgent event’ appears. As they say, ‘Welcome to Russian politics, kiddo!’”

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