After Ksenia Sobchak, a public person and a journalist, had been nominated to run for Russian presidency, her offices and volunteer groups launched activities in the regions. In Rostov-on-Don, Mineralnye Vody, Sochi, and Volgograd, the "Caucasian Knot" interviewed supporters and volunteers of Ksenia Sobchak to find out what to expect from the "candidate against all" and why she is more preferable than Putin and Navalny. Rivals and opponents of Ksenia Sobchak also had something to tell about her.
Volunteers of Ksenia Sobchak hold protests, but do not want to be fined or arrested
Volunteers and staff members of the Ksenia Sobchak's1offices like her position concerning peaceful and lawful protests. Activists believe that, unlike Navalny, Sobchak has more chances to become the president of Russia, since she does not call on her supporters to come to illegal rallies and "earn" fines and arrests.
Lawyer Nikolai Kladovoi, a reserve officer and a volunteer of the Rostov office, has explained to the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent that in early 2017, he took an active part in the activities of the Navalny's office2in the city, but later, he moved to a support group of Ksenia Sobchak.
Navalny has problems with his nomination. Sobchak does not have such a problem. She has made a statement that she will not allow a split of the democratic opposition front, and I like it Nikolai Kladovoi explains his choice.
He has also noted that for several years, he has been providing human rights help to local residents and he joined the Ksenia Sobchak's office with the desire to continue his activities.
We are mainly addressed by fire victims and citizens who suffered from police, official and judicial arbitrariness explains Nikolai Kladovoi. He has also emphasized that he "absolutely trusts" the Sobchak's promises.
I have been watching her political activities since 2012. I then watched her political birth: out of a 'blonde in chocolate,' she turned into a politician subject Nikolai Kladovoi notes.
According to him, his relatives and friends support his political views.
In the city, Ksenia Sobchak is mostly supported by "politically moderate citizens," the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent was explained by Anastasia Shevchenko, the chief of the Sobchak's office in Rostov.
People who earlier voted for Putin come regularly. They are quite well-off and they enjoy a normal life. They listen to her in TV shows, and they come (to offices). They say that they are ready to support her, to put their signatures. They are also students who do not want to come to unauthorized protest actions. They see that something is going wrong in the country, but they do not want to be fine or to be expelled from the university. And they come to help us. They want to be involved in the process, since it will be a completely new election campaign noted Anastasia Shevchenko
Alisa Vasilieva, a 26-year-old staff member of the Sobchak's office in Rostov, who is in charge for collection of signatures for the nomination of the candidate, has told the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent that earlier, she had been a lecture at a Navalny's office.
However, according to the activist, she does not like everything in the Alexei Navalny's activities. "He tends to hold unauthorized actions. Not all people supporting opposition movements want to directly violate the law and to be subjected to arrests and fines. Such people join the Sobchak's camp. Her position is softer than that of Navalny, who pretends to be a victim and drags his followers behind him. And many people do not want to be victims," Alisa Vasilieva explained.
Despite the fines for participating in unsanctioned protest actions, the negative attitude of their relatives and friends towards their activities, the young people supporting Navalny hope that they will be able to "turn the tide" and solve not only the problems of their regions, but also all-Russian problems. Many oppositionist's supporters from Astrakhan, Volgograd, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don, and Stavropol, to whom the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent talked, are willing to attend the All-Russian actions of Navalny in Moscow and other cities of the country, the "Caucasian Knot" notes it its material "Navalny's volunteers: prepaid PR steps or new political force?"
Good for a political start
Some volunteers have told the "Caucasian Knot" that they treat their activities at the Ksenia Sobchak's office in Rostov-on-Don as an experience in politics and do not see a big difference between the views of Sobchak and Navalny.
Maxim Popov, a 19-year-old student of a tourism college, a volunteer of the Sobchak's office in Rostov-on-Don, says he feels his responsibility for the situation in the country and wants to contribute to the development of the Russian democracy. Meanwhile, the young man could not explain the difference between the positions of Alexei Navalny and Ksenia Sobchak.
I treat her (Ksenia Sobchak) as a leader. If she does not become the president, she can be appointed to some serious position in the government of the country. And I believe that by working for her office, I will be able to gain experience and relevant knowledge in political and pre-election activities the volunteer has noted.
According to Maxim Popov, he did not meet support from his relatives.
This is not the choice, my relatives said. Friends kindly met my decision, but refused to become volunteers said Maxim Popov
Vladimir Gorkovenko, another volunteer of the Sobchak's office in Rostov-on-Don, a 19-year-old student of the Southern Federal University (SFU), has noted that being a student of the PR-management faculty, he is interested in politics from a scientific point of view.
In summer, I worked for the Navalny's office. Now I am a volunteer of the Sobchak's office. I do see nothing confusing in such 'sitting on two chairs.' I also visited offices of the 'Yabloko' and 'Edinaya Rossiya' (United Russia) Parties, but it seems they are not happy to see us there. I have a lot of friends at the Sobchak's office and that is why I work primarily there. Indeed. For me, personal relations play a bigger role than any political views stated Vladimir Gorkovenko.
According to Vladimir Gorkovenko, he takes into account his parents' opinion about his activities, but he does not take it too close to his heart.
My mother is aware of my volunteer activity. However, I believe I cannot tell her about the details of my work here. I talk to my father about politics. He has opposition views, but he believes in conspiracy theories. Therefore, I rarely talk to him on the subject said Vladimir Gorkovenko.
Andrei, a volunteer of the Sobchak's office in Rostov-on-Don, has asked not to mention his surname and place of study. He has said that earlier, he had never been engaged in political life.
I sympathized with Navalny, but I did not take part in the activities of his office. When Sobchak appeared on the political horizon, I began to follow the political news in which she had been involved. I am now at the stage to form my political position. I do not want to be a passive observer. I want to gain some experience of political volunteering at the office. I believe it will be useful to me and our civil society said Andrei.
Meanwhile, volunteers of the Sobchak's office meet not only support. Within a month after its opening, the office changed three addresses, since owners of the premises refused the office in rent. "They are afraid that windows or doors may be damaged or burnt (by Sobchak's opponents, note of the 'Caucasian Knot'). In general, we heard a lot. We found the premises only from the third time," Anastasia Shevchenko told the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent. She has noted that law enforcers and public officials have already visited the office several times to inspect it.
According to the office chief, since its opening, more than 1900 residents of the Rostov Region have been registered at the Sobchak's website "Candidate Against All". During the volunteer gathering held on December 20, more than 50 people expressed their desire to participate in the activities of the office, reported the chief of the Sobchak's office in Rostov.
Mineralnye Vody and Sochi: no offices, but wanted
There are no Sobchak's offices yet in the Stavropol and Krasnodar Territories. However, there are groups of volunteers willing to open offices. According to the activists, the negotiations with the Moscow office are underway.
In these regions, supporters of Ksenia Sobchak associate with her name and programme the solution of health problems, problems of unemployment, dilapidated and emergency housing, and high cost of living. According to members of the initiative groups, thanks to her publicity and acquaintances with the country's leaders, Ksenia Sobchak can contribute to a rapid change in the current situation.
Residents of Sochi on a strangers' feast of life
In Sochi, members of the initiative group got from the Moscow office the principle consent to the creation of a pre-election office, stated Alexander Boboshin, a group leader.
According to him, the pre-election Sobchak's website registered more than 1700 residents of the Krasnodar Territory, including at least 600 Sochi residents.
Alexander Boboshin notes that many of his acquaintances work for the Moscow office of Ksenia Sobchak, and that fact has become the key reason for his decision to join the pre-election activities on the Sobchak's side.
I became interested in the project. And when the office was headed by Igor Malashenko, I realized that I wanted to help them in an effective way. I met them, and we agreed to open an office in Sochi. I realize the force majeure and the complexity of this express project said Alexander Boboshin.
Meanwhile, he has noted he "respects the Sobchak's choice." "That's good that she had enough ambition and will power to enter the political podium. And I respect her for that and I am willing to help her," said the leader of the Sochi initiative group.
Elena Bokacheva, a member of the initiative group in Sochi, has been living in the city for 26 years already. She is an entrepreneur, Candidate of Economic Sciences. The woman is also willing to devote part of her personal time to work for the Sobchak's office.
As soon as she announced her decision to take part in the run for presidency, I immediately liked her idea. I watched her activities and her projects. She has a proper education. Ksenia is an interesting public figure. She has every reason to become the president noted Elena Bokacheva.
According to Elena Bokacheva, Ksenia Sobchak with her power and capabilities would be able to help with solving the Sochi's problems, including the problems of unemployment, seasonality of work, housing and communal problems, and high cost of living.
It seems local residents visit a strangers' feast of life. Our city should be not only the Olympic centre and the second capital of the country. It should also be comfortable for ordinary people, its residents. I believe Ksenia Sobchak will be able to draw the authorities' attention the problems in Sochi said Elena Bokacheva.
Mineralnye Vody: old houses, no normal polyclinic and job
In Mineralnye Vody, there is also an initiative group of 10 people who offered Ksenia Sobchak their help in organizing a pre-election office. However, negotiations with the Moscow office have not yet succeeded, and no answer has been received.
Igor Manaenko, a former military pilot, the leader of the initiative group in Mineralnye Vody, heads a law company. He sees one of the main problems of the city is the lack of dialogue between the local authorities and society.
There is no experienced manager in our place. There is no a host in the city Igor Manaenko told the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent. The activist has also noted that the young people leave the city.
He believes that Ksenia Sobchak would be able to remedy the situation, and the authorities in the Mineralnye Vody urban district could "get better".
I like her approach, her political ambitions. For a long time, there has not been a female leader in Russia Igor Manaenko believes.
Victoria Manaenko, a hirudotherapist and a biochemist a member of the initiative group in Mineralnye Vody, told the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent that she began to feel sympathy for Ksenia Sobchak during a TV show of a talk with President Vladimir Putin.
By asking him sharp direct questions, Ksenia voiced the truth that our people want to hear. However, this truth is extremely unpleasant for our authorities. That is why I decided not just to support Ksenia at the elections, but also to help in her pre-election campaign Victoria Manaenko explained.
She has also mentioned the main problem, which, according to her, first of all should be solved by the future president in her city: the state of children's health care.
This is the second year during which they cannot open a new children's polyclinic in the city. The floors fail in the old polyclinic built in 1947. There is a shortage of specialists. Nobody wants to work here for low salaries. They leave for other regions. Old doctors still work. Our medical insurance policies cannot be used. There are lines for months ahead. It is necessary to stimulate doctors: to raise their salaries and solve their housing problems Victoria Manaenko said.
Sergey Maslennikov, a 43-year-old Sobchak's supporter, has said that he spend the second month in an attempt to find a job in Mineralnye Vody. According to him, there are vacancies, but salaries are offered below 18,000 roubles a month.
In the Mineralnye Vody urban district, one of the acute problems is 'hidden' unemployment3. Salaries are low, and there are possibilities for no sub-jobs in the city, Sergey Maslennikov says.
I watched Sobchak's speeches. I believe she will be able to solve our problem. She is a wise person. She communicates with the powerful people of the world. He will bring our misfortune to the country's leaders. There is no one else to rely on Sergey Maslennikov explains.
I support Ksenia Sobchak. I believe she will be able to solve our problems, for example, the problem of dilapidation and emergency of our houses. It is not clear how the capital repair programme funds are distributed. Meanwhile, the money clearly does not reach the house said Vitaly Lipikhin, a member of the initiative group, a 30-year-old manager of one of the management companies in the city of Mineralnye Vody.
According to Vitaly Lipikhin, there are a lot of old dilapidated houses in the city.
The problem needs to be solved drastically. The management companies can do nothing because of shortage of funds. And tenants are not even able to collect money for examining the technical condition of their houses, since the cost of such an examination can reach up to 100,000 roubles. So, there is a vicious circle. I hope Sobchak will be able to resolve the issue Vitaly Lipikhin said.
Meanwhile, according to a response to an inquiry of the "Caucasian Knot" to the press service of the Mineralnye Vody administration, there is a capital repair programme, and the money is allocated under it. In 2015-2016, more than 50 million roubles were spent for capital repair of apartment buildings. More than 22,804 square meters are renovated, which accommodate 828 people live.
To work for money and for nothing
Any work must be paid for, believes Dan Guselnikov, a member of the initiative group in Sochi. He has noted he does not intend to work at the Sobchak's office for free. Meanwhile, the chief of the Rostov office has said she heads the Sobchak's office headquarters "absolutely for nothing".
Dan Guselnikov, a 39-year-old entrepreneur, a lawyer, a father of a family with many children, and a member of the initiative group in Sochi, seeks to open an office in the city. He has clearly explained to the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent his position regarding his work at the Sobchak's office: he will not work for free.
I believe that any work must be paid for. This is my sincere opinion. If a person is a specialist in his or her business, then a salary should be appropriate. I am ready to work at the office for full pay. I will spend three months working at the office. I have an experience of such work. And among others, I worked for the 'Edinaya Rossiya' Party. My wife will control our business at that time said Dan Guselnikov.
Meanwhile, he has noted he is not yet aware of the salary at the office. In case it does not suit him, he will not work for the office.
I will not work for Ksenia Sobchak for nothing. But I will remain her supporter and sign for her at the election explained Dan Guselnikov.
In turn, Anastasia Shevchenko, the chief of the Sobchak's office in Rostov, has got the higher linguistic education and the experience of work as a senior inspector in the regional election commission and a coordinator of sales in a commercial company. She states she works at the office "for nothing".
I had a good salary there (in a commercial company). And I resigned and moved here. Many of my friends believe I got crazy, since this work is for four months only and what then ... I do not win here at all in finance. This is the first actual pre-election campaign. I believe I may not have another chance to become a part of such a big event. And it seems to me that I can organize everything on high level here. I will not let them down. They need reliable people in the regions stated Anastasia Shevchenko.
Political opponents of Ksenia Sobchak see only money in motives of her volunteers.
Sobchak has no chances. The result at the elections will be within the statistical error. So, the guys who decided to set up an office in Sochi, understand that fact for sure the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent was told by Ilya Yefin, a member of the Sochi branch of the All-Russia People's Front. He believes this is evidence of a mercenary motive here.
About the same motivation of volunteers is also mentioned by Anna Kropacheva, the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) faction in the Council of delegates in the Mineralnye Vody urban district.
I see only interest here. Ksenia Sobchak is not a national hero. She has no ideological supporters here. As soon as someone can fill one's pockets with some money, there are always people who are happy to offer their services said Anna Kropacheva.
Half-open office in Volgograd: no volunteers, but a political analyst
At the time of the visit of the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent on December 27, an office of Ksenia Sobchak in Volgograd had not yet officially started its activities, but his staff members were already there and people came to put their signatures for Sobchak.
The office in No. 3 in Komsomolskaya Street is located in the premises of the press centre "Volga-Press" of the shopping centre "Diamant". The office was officially opened on December 29. Meanwhile, on December 27, when it was visited by the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent, already three employees worked at the office.
According to Nikolai Shameev, a member of the office, three staff members and a lawyer work at the office on the permanent basis, and 55 volunteers are ready to provide effective assistance to the office. More than 500 residents of the Volgograd Region are registered on the Ksenia Sobchak's website.
Nikolai Shameev states that according to the plan, the Volgograd office is to collect at least 2500 signatures in support of candidate Ksenia Sobchak.
Volunteers have different motivations. Everyone comes to us according to his or her own views. Some of volunteers themselves called us and offered their help. We called the rest. We took phone numbers from our website. Among the volunteers, there are people who are ready to go to collect signatures, and there are also those who cannot do that for some reasons, but want to campaign for Sobchak. Last week, we instructed them three times said Nikolai Shameev.
The "Caucasian Knot" correspondent failed to talk to volunteers. According to Robert Asaturov, a staff member of the office, starting from the day of opening, it is hard to catch volunteers at the office to talk to them.
When the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent talked to staff members, Alexander Saigin, a Volgograd political analyst, came into the room. He decided to put his signature for Ksenia Sobchak.
There is a silent hidden protest in the region. Navalny cannot run for presidency and offers not to vote. On the contrary, Sobchak tells people to go to polling stations and to demonstrate their protest. The wider the protest is, the faster the problems can be shown. Another question is whether the correct message is able to find people for the Volgograd office? stated Alexander Saigin.
Dagestan and Ingushetia: announcement, not opening
On December 7, with reference to Timur Valeev, the head for the regional network of the Sobchak's offices, the "Makhachkala News" and the "Ingushetia" reported that Sobchak's pre-election offices will be opened in Dagestan and Ingushetia.
It was announced that with the assistance of the "Civil Initiative" Party, the office in Dagestan was headed by Magomed Magomedov, the chairman for the Didoi National and Cultural Autonomy, while Akhmet-Khan Khidriev, the former chairman of the "Ekazhevo" cooperative, headed the office in Ingushetia.
Later, Alexander Belonovsky, an employee of the Ksenia Sobchak's office in Moscow, have told the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent no Sobchak's pre-election offices are opened in Dagestan and Ingushetia and no offices are planned to be opened there.
There are no offices in Ingushetia and Dagestan. And no offices will be opened there. There is a branch of the 'Civil Initiative' Party there, but they have nothing in common with our presidential campaign. Perhaps, people will help to collect signatures, but no offices will be opened explained Alexander Belonovsky.
In the Caucasus, pre-election offices of Ksenia Sobchak can arise only with the permission of the authorities, believes Magomed Mutsolgov, the head of the Ingush human rights organization "Mashr", the author of the blog at the "Caucasian Knot".
There are no people at our place, who would like to work as volunteers. Sobchak's offices will be registered in voluntarily-compulsorily way, if the authorities give such instructions the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent was told by Magomed Mutsolgov.
According to him, conservative views prevail among the peoples of the Caucasus.
The image of the glamorous young woman, who announced the "Dom-2" TV show, does not cause any sympathy for the vast majority of our people. Ksenia Sobchak enjoys no respect in the Caucasus, so, it is doubtful that someone will volunteer to work at her office believes Magomed Mutsolgov.
Opponents sympathize and condemn Sobchak
Ksenia Sobchak is primarily a journalist, not a politician, and she is unlikely to win the election, her political opponents believe. However, some of them note that Ksenia Sobchak and volunteers supporting her are quickly learning, and, despite the loss of the election, they can become a serious political force in the future.
Oleg Radin, the chairman of the Sochi branch of the "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" (Fair Russia) Party, believes the Sobchak's chances at the presidential election are "very low".
She is primarily a journalist. Her ambitions grew, and she decided to become the president of the country. Russia was also run by women, but Sobchak has small chances for that believes Oleg Radin.
Sergey Kosinov, the leader of the "Fair Russia" faction in the Legislative Assembly for the Rostov Region, treats the participation of Ksenia Sobchak in the presidential election as a "show" and a "PR step" to reach a necessary turnout at the presidential election.
A different point of view is expressed by Nikolai Larin, the secretary for the CPRF's primary organization in Rostov-on-Don. According to him, Ksenia Sobchak "should be perceived as a worthy opponent at the election".
I believe there is a 100 percent possibility she will pass according to the results of the collection of signatures, and her result at the elections will not be the worst. Her slogan, which she came up with, 'Against All' is worthy of respect. To my personal mind, she studies and trains. By the election of 2024, she will be a completely different person and politician, if she continues like that noted Nikolai Larin.
According to the Rostov communist, activists and volunteers of the Sobchak's city office "acquire a rich experience in elective activities".
People are training. This is the first time in their lives when they run a real office in the election race. By March, they will achieve certain results Nikolai Larin praised staff members and volunteers of the Sobchak's office in Rostov.
Sympathy for the activists of the Ksenia Sobchak's office in Rostov is also shared by Maria Krivenko, the deputy chair of the "Yabloko" Party's regional branch.
In Rostov, there is a core of activists, who from time to time may join some party. We find a common language. I am sure of the sincerity of their intentions and views noted Maria Krivenko.
Meanwhile, she criticized the Ksenia Sobchak's political ambitions. According to Maria Krivenko, with her slogan "Against All", Ksenia Sobchak undermines the credibility of the election and "misleads voters, and the existing authorities can benefit from that fact".
Sobchak and Navalny: supporters differ
Supporters of Ksenia Sobchak, to whom the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent has talked, described their opposition views. According to staff members of the pre-election offices, they are addressed by people who earn well, by respectable people who are dissatisfied with the situation, but who do not want to actively protest in the streets. Besides, the core of the Sobchak's protest movement is represented by young people who do not want to be expelled from educational institutions for involvement in protest actions.
The supporters of Ksenia Sobchak are not confused about her past, and some consider her publicity sometimes scandalous rather a plus than a minus, since through her popularity and acquaintance with public figures, Sobchak would be able to quickly report to the right people the problems in the regions, even if she does not become the president.
Volunteers' word rate differs a lot from the September survey of the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Centre (known as VTsIOM) and the December questioning held by the "Levada-Centre".
According to the VTsIOM poll, the name of Ksenia Sobchak is familiar to 95% of respondents. Of them, 60% voiced negative opinion about Sobchak and 21% positive. In 2012, the answer "I know well" Ksenia Sobchak was given by 57% of respondents, while in 2015, already by 72%. In 2012, 57% of those who earlier heard about Sobchak talked of her "rather negative", and in 2015, their number rose to 60%. And in 2016, only 4% of the respondents, familiar with the definition of "non-systemic opposition," attributed Sobchak to the opposition. Meanwhile, 15% of respondents treated Alexei Navalny as a representative of the non-systemic opposition.
Meanwhile, according to a survey conducted by "Levada-Centre" on December 1-5, only 1% of respondents are ready to vote for Ksenia Sobchak. And 61% of respondents were ready to give their votes for Vladimir Putin, who at the time of the poll had not yet announced his intention to run for Russian presidency.
Almost all the supporters of Ksenia Sobchak and some of their opponents, interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent, voiced a common idea: the journalist can be supported by people who adhere to oppositional views, but who, unlike Alexei Navalny's volunteers, do not want to participate in unsanctioned protests and be brought to administrative and criminal responsibility. So, Ksenia Sobchak can unite in her ranks the moderate opposition forces of Southern Russia.