Revolution possible if democracy wasn't embraced, Russian presidential candidate says
Mikhail Prokhorov is challenging current Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin for the presidency in March.
Mikhail Prokhorov, a super-rich tycoon challenging Vladimir Putin for Russia's presidency in March, said his country faced the danger of violent revolution if it did not break conservative resistance and move quickly to democracy.Skip to next paragraph
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Prokhorov, a billionaire bachelor long seen more as playboy than politician, told The Freeland File on reuters.com Russians had shaken off a post-Soviet apathy and were now 'just crazy about politics'. He denied accusations he was a Kremlin tool, let into the race to split the opposition and lend democratic legitimacy to a vote Putin seems almost certain to win.
Putin is seeking to return to the Kremlin and rule until at least 2018, but protests against alleged fraud in a Dec. 4 parliamentary vote have exposed growing discontent with the system he has dominated for 12 years.
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"What worked before does not work now. Look in the streets. People are not happy," Prokhorov, 46, said in the interview beneath the windowed dome that soars above his spacious office on a central Moscow boulevard close to the Kremlin.
"It is time to change," said Prokhorov, ranked by Forbes magazine as Russia's third-richest person, with an $18 billion metals-to-banking empire that includes the New Jersey Nets basketball team in the United States.
"Stability at any price is no longer acceptable for Russians."
But Prokhorov made clear he considers revolution equally unacceptable for a country with grim memories of a century of hardship, war and upheaval starting with Vladimir Lenin's 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, instead calling for "very fast evolution".
"I am against any revolution, because I know the history of Russia. Every time we have revolution, it was a very bloody period," he said.
The son of a Soviet sports official, Prokhorov has a basketball player's 204-cm (6-foot-8) frame, a narrow face and a head of short-cut hair graying around the edges. In a dark suit and blue shirt that looked modest for a Russian tycoon, he sat straight and spoke in English.
Public political consciousness is on the rise after years of apathy. The Soviet mentality is fading as a generation of Russians who "don't know who Lenin was" grows up, he said. The country was finally ripe for change.
"We now have all the pieces in place to move very fast to being a real democracy," Prokhorov said.
But he suggested there was a mounting battle in the ruling elite between liberals like himself and conservatives "ready to pay any price" to maintain the status quo. Russia, he said, could face a bloody revolution if opponents of reform prevail.