Billionaire Prokhorov to Talk With Kudrin About Party, Aide Says

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov may invite former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin to join his new middle-class political party, an adviser said.

“I am sure that Prokhorov will discuss this project with Kudrin,” Gleb Pavlovsky, who heads the Moscow-based Effective Policy Foundation and advised the Russian businessman on his presidential election campaign, said by phone yesterday.

Prokhorov, whose fortune was valued at $18 billion by Forbes last year, received almost 8 percent of the vote in the March 4 presidential election, placing him third behind the winner, Vladimir Putin, and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov.

Putin, 59, who faced unprecedented protests in major cities after allegations of fraud in December parliamentary elections, is seeking to form a “loyal, liberal opposition” to defuse opposition to his rule, according to Sergei Markov, a member of the ruling United Russia party.

Opposition groups are planning a campaign of rallies and civil disobedience to press for new parliamentary and presidential elections. Putin garnered 64 percent of the vote in an election that was criticized by international observers as unfair. The Russian leader, who’s been in power for 12 years, hasn’t ruled out standing again for president in 2018, which would give him almost a quarter-century at the helm.

Kudrin, who was ousted in September by outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev after opposing increases in military spending, said last month that he’s trying to form an alliance of pro-democracy forces. The ex-minister sought to mediate between the opposition and Putin after the protests erupted in December.

While Kudrin and Prokhorov have backed calls for a new parliamentary vote, neither has questioned the legitimacy of Putin’s election to a new Kremlin term.

The billionaire met Putin the day after the election together with two other losing candidates, later appearing on stage at an opposition meeting attended by thousands of people in Moscow. “You want change. I’ll do everything to ensure you see these changes,” he said.

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