Billionaire enters fray against Putin

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Billionaire enters fray against Putin

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Russia’s third richest man has been given the green light to stand against Vladimir Putin in the country’s presidential election, but the biggest challenge he may face is convincing people he is a genuine rival to the prime minister.

Michail Prokhorov dismisses critics claims that he is a ‘Kremlin project.’

“I’ve always made decisions on my own,” he said, urging sceptics to look at his achievements in life. “One should look at who is proposing what and who has made what with their own hands. That’s the best proof of what you are.”

His endorsement by the electoral commission comes after it that ruled Grigory Yavlinsky, an undisputed Putin opponent, could not stand. It said there were irregularities with the list of signatures supporting his nomination.

The liberal Yabloko party leader said: “The registered candidates will represent the one and only corporation – the current authorities.

There will be simply no opponents, and this will be a very complicated situation.”

The fairness of the March election is again being questioned by the independent but Western-funded

monitoring group, Golos. It claims its members are being intimidated.

Senior executive Grigory Melkonyants said: “Our correspondents who participated in the previous election were invited for conversations at universities or organisations where they work or study, for pre-emptive talks, to prevent them from working with Golos.”

There is no doubt that Putin remains a hugely popular figure and he is expected to win the presidential vote easily. However, a big drop in support for his United Russia party in December’s parliamentary election amid allegations of vote rigging, suggests his appeal is waning.