Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A Russian Billionaire Goes Back to Politics ; Owner of N.B.A. Team Says He Wants to Create a 'Third Force' in Politics

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A Russian Billionaire Goes Back to Politics ; Owner of N.B.A. Team Says He Wants to Create a 'Third Force' in Politics

Article excerpt

Mikhail D. Prokhorov said he would set aside business interests to devote himself to politics. His statement criticized both President Vladimir V. Putin and the leaders of street protests.

Amid heightening pressure on leaders of Moscow street protests, the billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov has announced that he was setting aside his business interests altogether to devote his attention to politics.

Mr. Prokhorov, the owner of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team in New York, ran for president in March, attracting many of the urban voters who had begun to turn away from President Vladimir V. Putin. But after winning 8 percent of the vote, he retreated from the political stage, and has said little as Mr. Putin introduced a battery of repressive new measures aimed at reining in dissent.

At the convention of his party, Civic Platform, Mr. Prokhorov said Saturday that he had signed an agreement transferring management of his investment group, Onexim, to his partners.

He said he hoped to attract the support of grass-roots activists and form what he characterized as a "third force," distinct from both the Kremlin and the protest leaders, who have organized themselves into a so-called Coordinating Committee.

"We have a classical love of dividing ourselves into reds and whites," Mr. Prokhorov said. "And there is no third opinion given. I would like to have a third opinion, because I want a country where both the Kremlin and the Coordinating Committee felt comfortable. So I am, if you wish, the third force."

Mr. Prokhorov's publicist, Ellen Pinchuk, said the decision would not affect "any of his assets," including the Brooklyn Nets, which will remain under the control of the existing managerial group. She noted that Mr. Prokhorov had made similar declarations twice before, most recently when he began his presidential run.

His announcement comes at a low point for the protest movement, after opposition candidates failed to gain a foothold during regional and municipal elections this month, and as several protest leaders face the possibility of imprisonment. One activist, who fled to Ukraine seeking political asylum, has said he was abducted off a Kiev street, forced to sign a confession and delivered to Russian prosecutors. …

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