Billionaire politician eyes Putin’s seat

The leader of the Russian right-leaning Right Cause party, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, has said that he was ready to become the prime minister if his party program is approved by the president and voters.

“I think I can cope with the Prime Minister’s work,” Prokhorov told reporters at a press conference in Moscow on Thursday. He added that in his view, the prime minister was the general director of a large country.

Earlier this month, answering reporters' questions by e-mail, Prokhorov said he was not planning to seek presidency.

At the same time, Prokhorov said that he would not help to implement any political program that he personally did not believe in. But “if the program suggested by Right Cause will be supported by a large number of people and the person who will be the President in March, in this case I can consider such an option,” Prokhorov said. Prokhorov also said that his party supported Russia’s movement towards Europe, which would include its eventual entry into the European Union and the Euro zone.

“It seems to me that our country must resolutely take the step towards becoming closer to Europe. The first thing is to join the Schengen zone and second – enter the Euro zone,” the Right Cause leader said. But he added that presently this is impossible because the ruble as a currency is too dependent on oil and gas. “Our task is to become Europe’s leading economy in seven to ten years” Prokhorov said. He said that this would create three financial centers in the World – the USA and Latin America, Russia and Europe, and the countries of Asia lead by China. In the end, this could save many countries from bankruptcy, including the countries of Europe.

The decision to integrate Russia into Europe might seem a little eccentric for Prokhorov, who went through a public scandal with at least one European nation – France. In January 2007, Prokhorov and four of his friends were arrested and detained for several days in the ski resort of Courchevel over suspicion of involvement in a prostitution ring. Police released Prokhorov without pressing any charges, but the criminal case was closed only two years later. Media reports quoted French police sources as saying that some of the girls accompanying Prokhorov on his skiing trip had received gifts worth thousands of dollars, but investigators have failed to prove that this was not a genuine friendship, but a business arrangement. Also in 2009, the French government officially apologized to Prokhorov and in March 2011, the Russian businessman was awarded the French Order of the Legion of Honor.

Prokhorov promised to present an elaborate economic program for public discussion before the Right Cause’s pre-elections congress which is due in September.

Prokhorov, one of Russia’s richest businessmen, has only recently entered the political arena, though he has very ambitious plans. In June 2011 he became the head of Right Cause – a political party which was formed in 2008 as a successor to the market-oriented Union of Right Forces, the Democratic Party of Russia and the Civil Power party. Prokhorov claims that the Right Cause must become the second largest faction in the lower house after United Russia, and he has already started to attract individuals who could potentially form a shadow government.