Billionaire and Ex-Minister to Oppose Putin in Russian Presidential Election
By Ellen Barry and David M. Herszenhorn
MOSCOW — Amid a crescendo of complaints from Russians fed up with the country's tightly controlled political system, two prominent figures — a billionaire industrialist and the recently ousted finance minister — sought to fill a void in the opposition leadership on Monday.
The billionaire, Mikhail D. Prokhorov, who owns shares in a major gold mining company and an array of other ventures in Russia as well as the New Jersey Nets basketball franchise in the United States, said he would run for president, challenging Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.
"I made a decision, probably the most serious decision in my life: I am going to the presidential election," Mr. Prohkorov said at a news conference. He has barely appeared in public since mid-September, when he was removed as the head of a pro-business party, Just Cause, after clashing with Kremlin political strategists.
"You may remember, the Kremlin removed me and my allies from Just Cause, and we were not allowed to do what we wanted," he said. "It is not in my nature to stop halfway. So for the last two and a half months we sat and worked, very calmly and quietly, and we created all the infrastructure to collect two million signatures," the number needed to get on the ballot as an independent candidate.
For Mr. Prokhorov, whose business interests include a stake in the Atlantic Yards development in downtown [sic] Brooklyn, his leap into presidential politics could be risky. He is the first wealthy businessman to pursue a political goal in Russia against the governing authorities since the 2003 arrest of Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the former chairman of the Yukos Oil Company, who was jailed after he began financing an opposition party. He remains in prison.