Russian Billionaire to Challenge Putin

Associated Press + More

MOSCOW — Mikhail Prokhorov, one of Russia's richest tycoons and New Jersey Nets basketball team owner, says he will challenge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in next March's presidential election.

[Russian President Announces Investigation into Elections.]

While he was cautious not to cross Putin's path in the past, Prokhorov may pose a serious challenge to Putin, whose authority has been dented by the Dec. 4 parliamentary election and massive protests against vote fraud.

Prokhorov said Monday that a decision to run for president was "the most important decision" in his life.

Putin's hand has been weakened by a significant drop of support for his party in the parliamentary vote. Opposition parties and election monitors say that even that result was inflated because of fraud. Tens of thousands Muskovites rallied Saturday to protest vote-rigging and urge an end to Putin's rule.