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					Mikhail Prokhorov promises to give away billions if he wins Russian
presidency

A billionaire Russian oligarch challenging Vladimir Putin for the
presidency in an election next month has promised to give away the bulk
of his estimated £11.5 billion fortune to charity if he wins.
Mikhail Prokhorov, a metals tycoon and Russia's third richest man, made
the pledge during a stormy televised debate with another presidential
contender late on Thursday night after being accused of effectively
robbing his way to wealth in the 1990s.

"I will sell everything, all my assets when I become president and donate
almost all of the money to charity," the 46-year-old businessman said.

The owner of large stakes in giant gold and aluminium companies as well
as the proprietor of an American basketball team, Mr Prokhorov said he
would keep one billion dollars, the equivalent of £640 million pounds, to
himself for personal expenses after life in the Kremlin.

"I will need something to live on," he said without apparent irony.

Mr Prokhorov's promise is something he is unlikely to be held to any time
soon however. One of five candidates vying for the presidency in a March
4 election expected to be easily won by Vladimir Putin, the prime
minister, the oligarch's popularity ratings remain in single digits for
now.
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The promise from the newest political figure to enter the tightly stage-
managed world of Russian politics in years came as the country's anti-
Kremlin opposition prepared to brave sub-zero temperatures for a major
protest in central Moscow on Saturday.

With the mercury hovering at around minus 20 degrees Celsius, organisers
have said they plan to gather up to 50,000 people for a march to a square
opposite the Kremlin where they intend to hold a brief meeting.

Although tens of thousands of people are expected to attend, albeit
briefly, there are signs that the crowd numbers will fall some way short
of two big protests in December which saw up to 80,000 people take to the
streets of Moscow.
The protesters' demands essentially remain the same: to cancel the
allegedly falsified results of a parliamentary election in December won
by Mr Putin's ruling United Russia party and to enact serious reform to
the country's authoritarian political system.

The marchers are also pressing for the Kremlin to release more than forty
people they consider political prisoners such as former oligarch Mikhail
Khodorkovsky who was jailed on fraud charges his supporters believe were
politically-motivated.

Mr Putin's supporters are organising their own rival rally in his support
on Saturday in another part of Moscow. The strongman Russian politician
has openly mocked the protesters while conceding that there is a need for
serious political change.

An opinion poll released on Friday by a state-run pollster showed he
would win 52 per cent of the vote if a presidential election was held now
negating the need for a run-off.

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