Russian presidential hopeful Ksenia Sobchak says she won't sling mud at Putin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Ksenia Sobchak, a Russian TV personality planning to run against Vladimir Putin in next year's presidential election, attacked his policies on Tuesday but said she would not personally insult him in the campaign because he was a family friend.

Sobchak, 35, and the daughter of a former mayor of St Petersburg for whom Putin once worked, said she does not expect to beat Putin, who is a runaway favorite for re-election in March if he chooses to run again.

But she said she wants to provide an alternative choice for Russian voters who are frustrated with mainstream politicians.

See more of the socialite turned politician:

Ksenia Sobchak Russian TV personality to run against Putin
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Ksenia Sobchak Russian TV personality to run against Putin
Russian TV personality Ksenia Sobchak, who recently announced plans to run in the upcoming presidential election, attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Russian TV personality Ksenia Sobchak, who recently announced plans to run in the upcoming presidential election, attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Russian TV personality Ksenia Sobchak arrives for a trial of Russian theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov, who was accused of embezzling state funds and placed under house arrest, in Moscow, Russia October 17, 2017. Picture taken October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
Russian TV personality Ksenia Sobchak, who recently announced plans to run in the upcoming presidential election, waves during a news conference in Moscow, Russia October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Opposition leader Ilya Yashin (R) shows a security patch as television host and opposition activist Ksenia Sobchak looks at it as opposition try to set on their own security at protest camp in a boulevard in central Moscow May 10, 2012. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov (RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
Former mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak gestures as he speaks with journalists at a news conference held by news agency Interfax in St. Petersburg July 13. Sobchak, who returned to Russia's second city on Monday after two years of self imposed exile, talking about his future plans, said that he would not exclude taking part in the presidential elections in 2000.
Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky (R) and Russian opposition activist Ksenia Sobchak visit Independence Square, cradle of the uprising against ousted President Viktor Yanukovuch, in Kiev March 9, 2014, a day before he gives students a lecture on human rights and freedom. Russian forces tightened their grip on Crimea on Sunday despite a U.S. warning to Moscow that annexing the southern Ukrainian region would close the door to diplomacy in a tense East-West standoff. Khodorkovsky, who was widely seen as a political prisoner, was released by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December last year after more than 10 years in jail. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
Television host and opposition activist Ksenia Sobchak delivers a speech during a demonstration for fair elections on Novy Arbat Street in central Moscow March 10, 2012. Several thousand Russians gathered in central Moscow on Saturday for a rally seen as a test of the opposition's ability to mount a sustained challenge to President-elect Vladimir Putin. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST ELECTIONS)
Russian opposition leaders Ilya Yashin (R) and Ksenia Sobchak arrive for questioning at the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation in Moscow June 15, 2012. Police showed up on Ksenia Sobchak's doorstep at 8 a.m. in the middle of a sleepy long weekend and started a search. They spent hours in her apartment on Monday, going through the belongings of the 30-year-old TV personality, socialite and restaurateur before she had a chance to get properly dressed, Sobchak recounted to a Moscow radio station on Wednesday. The board reads "The Investigative Committee of Russian Federation". REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST ENTERTAINMENT)
TV Personality Kseniya Sobchak (R) attends a protest rally called The White Ring with opposition supporters wearing white ribbons and carrying balloons and other white objects while they build a human chain along the Garden Ring road in Moscow, February 26, 2012. Thousands of Russians joined hands to form a ring around Moscow city centre on Sunday in protest against Vladimir Putin's likely return as president in an election next week. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov (RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS CIVIL UNREST ENTERTAINMENT)
TV Personalities Kseniya Sobchak and Uliana Sergianko (R) arrive for amfAR's Cinema Against AIDS 2011 event in Antibes during the 64th Cannes Film Festival May 19, 2011. Picture taken May 19, 2011. REUTERS/Yves Herman (FRANCE - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
Russian socialite Ksenia Sobchak arrives for the opening of the 27th Moscow film festival June 17, 2005. Russian stars from the cinema industry gathered on Thursday for the opening of the annual festival held in the Russian capital. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin WAW/AA
Russian TV host Ksenia Sobchak (R) and rap singer Timati pose on the red carpet as they arrive for Russia's MTV Movie Awards, in central Moscow April 19, 2007. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov (RUSSIA)
TV personalities Ksenia Sobchak (L) and Ivan Urgant arrive for the MUZ-TV music awards in Moscow June 6, 2008. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin (RUSSIA)
TV personality Ksenia Sobchak presents a creation by Russian designer Denis Simachev in Moscow January 31, 2009. Russian fashion designer Denis Simachev returned to the Moscow catwalk after several years with designs evoking change and upheaval to support his homeland during the financial crisis. Picture taken January 31, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Peter (RUSSIA)
PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 04: Ulyana Sergeenko, Ksenia Sobchak, and Lidia Metelskaya attend the Giambattista Valli Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2016-2017 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on July 4, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)
Russia's television celebrities Kseniya Sobchak (R), Tina Kandelaki (C) and Lera host the opening show of the New Wave international song contest in Jurmala July 28, 2009. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins (LATVIA ENTERTAINMENT)
TV personalities Kseniya Sobchak (L) and Pavel Volya arrive for the MTV Russia Movie Awards in Barvikha outside Moscow April 23, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Peter (RUSSIA ENTERTAINMENT)
ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN - NOVEMBER 02: Actress Ksenia Sobchak attends the Capital Partners' Ritz-Carlton, Almaty Opening at Ritz-Carlton Hotel on November 2, 2013 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. (Photo by Vladimir Tretyakov/Getty Images for Capital Partners)
Tv host and socialite ksenia sobchak poses for the press in the shopping centre �european� at the russian premiere of william heins comedy pledge this! starring paris hilton, ksenia sobchak is the voice of paris hilton in the comedy released in russia under the title blonde in chocolate, february 8, 2007, moscow, russia. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 18: Actress Ksenia Sobchak attends the premiere of the movie 'Izgnanie' held at the Palais des Festivals during the 60th International Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2007 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
MOSCOW - JUNE 18: TV presenter Ksenia Sobchak arrives at the opening ceremony of the XXVI Moscow international film festival at Russia cinema hall on June 18, 2004 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)
First mayor of st, petersburg, anatoly sobchak with daughter ksenia and wife lyudmila narusova attending a performance at the hermitage theatre in this november 1993. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)

Alexei Navalny, a fierce critic of Putin, has said he believes Sobchak is being used by the Kremlin to blunt protests by liberals alienated from the political process, though she has denied doing the Kremlin's bidding.

"I tell you honestly: I'm running against everyone, and this refers to Vladimir Putin," she said. But she added: "I personally will not insult Putin."

"For some, he is a tyrant and dictator ... but for me this is a person who, first of all, helped my father in a difficult situation and de facto saved his life," she told a news conference to unveil her campaign team.

She did however state her opposition to Putin possibly running for a fourth term in power.

"I am against the corrupt system which was built in our country during these years and I am against anyone, including Putin, being in power for 18 years."

"The fact that the country has no fair elections is the result of those 18 years."

Sobchak is the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak, a reformist Petersburg mayor who hired Putin as an official in City Hall in the 1990s. Sobchak became his mentor.

Sobchak lost the mayor's job in a 1996 election. He later moved to France and became the subject of a criminal investigation in Russia for receiving bribes and abuse of office. He denied wrongdoing, saying the case was politically-motivated.

The case against him was dropped in 1999, soon after Putin became prime minister. When Sobchak died in 2000, Putin attended his funeral.

Opinion polls show that Putin, 65, who has dominated Russian politics for nearly two decades, will comfortably win re-election if, as most analysts expect, he decides to seek a fourth term in March. He has so far kept silent about his plans.


(Editing by Christian Lowe and Richard Balmforth)

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