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Sobchak Stirs Controversy In Russia By Saying Crimea Is Part Of Ukraine

Ksenia Sobchak at a press conference in Moscow on October 24.
Ksenia Sobchak at a press conference in Moscow on October 24.

The Kremlin has criticized Russian presidential hopeful Ksenia Sobchak for saying that Crimea is legally part of Ukraine, while flamboyant nationalist lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky said she should be jailed for the remark.

Sobchak, a TV personality and opposition activist, caused controversy with the statement at a press conference on October 24 -- her first since she announced she will seek the presidency in the March 2018 election.

She said that by international law, Crimea "belongs to Ukraine" and that Russia, by occupying and seizing the peninsula in 2014, violated a 1994 pledge to to protect Ukraine's sovereignty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on October 25 that Sobchak's comments were wrong "in essence and in form."

Peskov stated that "Crimea is an inalienable part of the Russian Federation," although Moscow's claim to the region has little support worldwide and is rejected by dozens of countries.

While Russia has charged some people who have said that Crimea belongs to Ukraine with separatism, Peskov gave no indication that the Kremlin believes Sobchak should be investigated and said that was not a matter for the president's office to address.

Zhirinovsky, who has been in parliament since 1993 and is known for attention-grabbing remarks, said that Sobchak should be imprisoned "for about five years" for her comments.

Putin, who has held power as president or prime minister since 1999, is widely expected to seek a new six-year Kremlin term in the election.

Critics of Sobchak say her effort to run will play into the hands of Putin, who has strengthened Kremlin control over politics in Russia and is virtually assured of victory.

With reporting by RIA, TASS, Interfax, and Vesti