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Moscow police make arrests in extortion case involving associates of 2018 presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, who promptly fled abroad

Source: Meduza

On Wednesday, a Moscow judge jailed Kirill Sukhanov, the commercial director of journalist and socialite Ksenia Sobchak, on charges of trying to extort 11 million rubles ($178,650) from Rostec head Sergey Chemezov and at least one other victim in exchange for burying negative news coverage on the Telegram channel Tushite Svet (Lights Out!).

In court, Sukhanov said he was ready to apologize to the victim and take responsibility for receiving 800,000 rubles ($13,000) in extortion money (cash that was reportedly recovered in a sting operation), but he denied any part in the “remaining 11 million rubles” and said he has no access to the Telegram channel in question.

Hours later, another judge also jailed Arian Romanovsky, the former editor-in-chief of Tatler magazine and Tushite Svet’s supposed administrator. (At his arraignment, Romanovsky acknowledged that he wrote for the Telegram channel (including at least one post allegedly involved in the extortion scheme), but he denied any role in “financial conversations” with Chemezov or anyone else.

Amid multiple reports that police officers searched her country home and considered her a suspect, Ksenia Sobchak left Russia for Lithuania, apparently traveling through Belarus and reaching the EU on foot. Local journalists say she arrived on her Israeli passport — citizenship that she received just this spring.

In a post on her own Telegram channel, Sobchak said she doesn’t believe the allegations against Sukhanov and denounced the police actions as an assault against her news team at the Telegram channel Ostorozhno_Novosti (Watch Out, News), adding that she hopes the whole affair is a simple misunderstanding.

Previous complaints filed by another senior executive at Rostech, Vasily Brovko (entrepreneur and TV entertainer Tina Kandelaki’s husband), led to the arrest of several other Telegram channel administrators, also on extortion allegations. Commenting on this case in early October, State Duma deputy Alexander Khinshtein wrote on his Telegram channel that Sergey Chemezov’s staff were directly involved in the police case against these bloggers. Khinshtein noted that the network’s supposed anonymity is a “myth,” adding, “I would venture to guess that this large-scale operation will not end with these latest arrests.”

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