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Playboy oligarch bidding to beat Putin

Mikhail Prokhorov strode into the hall to a ripple of polite applause, his 6ft 8in frame clad in a sharp suit and magenta tie.

Russia's third-richest man was until recently most famous for his playboy lifestyle. Now, he wants to be the next president of Russia.

A wildcard candidate in the upcoming elections, Mr Prokhorov has promised to target the "active minority" of Russians, especially those who came on to the streets in December to protest against rigged parliamentary elections.

The gangly oligarch will stand for president against Vladmir Putin on March 4, in a race that, realistically, he has no chance of winning.

He has also been forced to make repeated denials that he is a "stooge" candidate; a carefully managed critic who can be used to channel some of the discontent from the protest movement in a manner safe for the Kremlin.

Over the weekend, he began his presidential campaign in the city of Kazan and, for the first time, shared the full details of his manifesto with more than 2,000 people who turned out to meet the oligarch.

Most of what Mr Prokhorov said policy-wise sounded eminently sensible, and it certainly resonated with the audience.

Some of it sounded rather vague but much of it consisted of concrete policy steps designed to appeal directly to disaffected young Russians, particularly the ending of conscription to the army.

The contender also promised to do more to promote visa-free travel for Russians to the EU, to make life easier for start-up businesses, and to restore confidence in the police. (©Independent News Service)

Irish Independent