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Political expert Alexey Sitnikov and Ksenia Sobchak campaign chief Igor Malashenko at a press conference.

‘The whole campaign was thought up on a napkin’ A top political expert quits Ksenia Sobchak's presidential campaign after just a week

Source: Meduza
Political expert Alexey Sitnikov and Ksenia Sobchak campaign chief Igor Malashenko at a press conference.
Political expert Alexey Sitnikov and Ksenia Sobchak campaign chief Igor Malashenko at a press conference.
Petr Kassin / Kommersant

On October 24, Ksenia Sobchak revealed the team that would run her presidential campaign, tapping political expert Alexey Sitnikov to lead her “troops in the field.” He was supposed to be the person in charge of organizing the collection of signatures required to get Sobchak on the ballot.

Just a week later, Sitnikov and everybody on his team quit the campaign. According to the newsletter The Bell, he took seven staffers with him. Without citing specific numbers, sources told the newspaper Kommersant that almost two thirds of the Sobchak campaign’s employees have resigned. Sitnikov told Meduza that he should have had about 30 people working with him in Moscow.

According to the magazine RBC, Sobchak campaign managers met on October 30 to discuss strategies for attracting more supporters. The meeting led to serious disagreements, at which point Sitnikov’s team stood up, walked out, and didn't come back.

“They just left quietly and that was that,” a Sobchak staffer told Kommersant. “Even if they had disagreements about work, this just isn’t how things are done,” a source told RBC.

Speaking to the BBC, Alexey Sitnikov denied any conflict inside Sobchak’s campaign, claiming that he resigned due to “different approaches to the organization process and to the goals of [the campaign’s] activities.”

Sitnikov told RBC that the Sobchak campaign has no money, and a lack of funding even forced the candidate to pass on a trip to Yekaterinburg. “The staff are setting up tables, and there’s not even a printer. Everything’s like that. Nothing makes sense. The whole campaign was thought up on a napkin,” Sitnikov said, saying what’s happening is a mess. A source inside the Sobchak campaign told RBC  that Sitnikov wanted to leave because “there’s no money there, and everyone thinks they’re in charge.”

Sitnikov told Meduza that he couldn’t get an answer when he asked who would be financing Sobchak’s campaign. He said he decided not to begin recruiting 10,000 people to collect signatures for Sobchak’s candidacy because he wasn’t confident that they’d be paid. “There will be a proper organization of labor. Everything will be proper and structured systematically,” he promised at the time.

Sitnikov says he’s still on good terms with the remaining members of Sobchak’s campaign. “I got texts from everybody saying, ‘Lyosha, let’s get coffee. It’s too bad you left, but let’s stay friends,’” he said.

Ksenia Chudinova, the press secretary for Sobchak’s campaign, has refused to comment on Sitnikov’s resignation. “Let all Alexey Sitnikov’s comments remain on his conscience,” she said, denying any schism inside the campaign. “We have a pretty friendly, good-spirited team, everyone is moving together in the same direction, and everything is great.”

We won’t give up Because you’re with us

Russian text by Vladimir Tsybulsky, translation by Kevin Rothrock