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At the same time, it is widely assumed Ms Sobchak’s star appeal will energise an otherwise predictable election.
Whatever the details of any arrangement, the Kremlin’s response so far has contrasted obviously with the treatment of fellow opposition politician Mr Navalny, who remains in jail for his role in organising “unsanctioned” protests.
According to Ms Sobchak’s mother, the presidential hopeful had been recording a video about her father. The business paper that the Kremlin understood Russia is not ready to endorse the idea of a female president.
He became ill from stress, and apparently was on the verge of a heart attack.
President Yeltsin refused to intervene to help his opponent, and legend has it Mr Putin, then a Kremlin official, personally arranged a special operation to evacuate his former boss to Europe.
But its roots go back much further than that – to 1989, and with the improbable union of two men: a 50-year-old democratic reformer called Anatoly and his former student, a 38-year-old former KGB agent called Vladimir.
Then mayor of St Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak was touted as a future national leader, second in popularity only to Boris Yeltsin.