Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov’s decision to stand against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in presidential elections could be part of a Kremlin plan rather than a genuine challenge to the authorities, the press said yesterday.
Prokhorov announced on Monday he would be a candidate in the March presidential elections, adding new drama to the Russian political scene after mass opposition protests shook the authorities over the weekend.
However, several newspapers cast suspicion on his announcement, noting that Prokhorov maintains good ties with the elite and saying the Kremlin could want his candidacy to harmlessly soak up any protest votes against Putin.
The Vedomosti quoted a Kremlin source as saying that Prokhorov’s candidacy was not unexpected as the tycoon had kept contact with Putin and his inner circle.
The source described Prokhorov’s move as a “tactical decision” aimed at reducing tensions in society after the protests of the last week accusing the authorities of rigging this month’s parliamentary elections.
Online newspaper Gazeta.ru reported that his announcement had come just weeks after he had publicly and apparently acrimoniously fallen out with the Kremlin over a botched plan to lead a pro-business political party.
“Experts believe either Prokhorov has been put forward by the Kremlin for the sake of the angry protesters or his candidacy will not be registered,” it said.
The Kommersant daily said: “Some are happy that a candidate for the protest vote has appeared, but others are sure that this is a Kremlin plan.”