“Aeroflot is always exciting!”

That is what my mother said when I told her about the federal agents.  As I stood in line in Los Angeles to board my plane to Moscow, two uniformed agents wearing bulletproof vests escorted a small, thin woman down the jetway.  My hypothesis is that she was an expelled diplomat of some sort.  The agents weren’t from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and, besides, deportations do not occur on commercial flights.  The woman wasn’t under arrest– she wasn’t handcuffed.

I stood there staring after where the woman and the agents had been until my attention was grabbed by an announcement.  “Paging Aeroflot passenger Sobchak, Kuh…Kuh-SEEN-eye-uh,” the poor agent struggled with the name.  Good lord.  KSENIA SOBCHAK!!!  I turned around and there she was.

How to explain who this woman is.  In many ways, she’s the Donald Trump of Russia.  A know-nothing reality-show host who recently ran for president, only she lost.  But the reason she is a talk show host in the first place is because of her pedigree.  She is the daughter of the former mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1990s, Anatoly Sobchak.   Mr. Sobchak is famous for many things, but perhaps his most notable action was hiring a certain Mr. Vladimir Putin as his deputy.

For a while she was known as Russia’s “It Girl,” kind of like Paris Hilton, but in recent years she tried to re-make herself as a serious politician.  This seems to have mostly involved wearing glasses and frumpy dresses.  Many of her political positions seem made -up on the spot.

I fumbled around with my purse but managed to pull my phone out just in time to snap her photo.  Oops.  Despite the fact that she appears to court attention, she did not want to be photographed that day.  She came over and stood beside me, making sure I deleted the photo from my phone, saying that I should be more polite.  As luck would have it, there was another copy of the photo elsewhere in my memory:


She then cut ahead of me in line.  As I passed the federal agents still positioned on the jetway, all I could think was that relations with Russia were getting truly weird.


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