Russia's Civil Initiative Party has officially nominated journalist and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak to run as its candidate in a presidential election next year that is widely expected to hand President Vladimir Putin another six-year term.
The decision, adopted by a party congress on Saturday, followed an announcement by Sobchak, the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak, the reformist mayor of St. Petersburg in the early 1990s and a mentor to Putin, that she was seeking the nomination to run for the post in a March 18 vote.
The 36-year-old has been featured in television shows such as Russia's equivalent of Big Brother and A Blonde in Chocolate, in which she often cursed, appeared drunk and wore revealing clothing. She has also been on the cover of the Russian version of Playboy magazine.
Sobchak, sometimes called the Russian Paris Hilton for her reality-TV fame, has said she wants to make her country's "extremely intolerant" society and political system more open and democratic.
Critics of 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 has also irked some Kremlin supporters with comments saying that Crimea is legally part of Ukraine despite its annexation by Moscow.
Russia-backed separatists have been fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine in a war that has killed more than 10,300 people since it started in April 2014. Russia's annexation of Crimea has not been recognized by the international community.
Russia denies interfering in Ukraine's internal affairs, despite compelling evidence that Moscow has provided military, economic and political support to the separatists.
She has also called for the resignation of top Russian officials she says are responsible for the country's sports-doping scandal and has rejected Kremlin claims of U.S. meddling in Russian politics, saying interference by foreign players could not significantly impact domestic affairs.
Earlier Saturday, the Russian Communist Party unanimously approved Pavel Grudinin as its nominee in the election.
Aleksei Navalny, Russia's most well-known opposition politician, has also 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 approval ratings regularly exceeding 80 percent, Putin, who is running as an independent, appears set to easily win his second consecutive term, and fourth overall, in the balloting.