Michail Prochorov - Natasha Mozgovaya - 03032012
The Michail Prochorov event at the Olimpiyskiy Photo by Natasha Mozgovaya
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Natasha Mozgovaya
Michail Prochorov at his press-conference in Olimpiyskiy March 3 Photo by Natasha Mozgovaya

Natasha Mozgovaya, Moscow -  Polls predict that billionaire Michail Prokhorov will receive about 7% of the vote in Sunday's elections. This election has seen some interesting tactics. Vladimir Putin's billboards "Your vote is needed for victory," without the candidate’s picture. Some eccentric TV ads, like those of nationalist candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky, sitting in a sled with a donkey, promising that once he is elected, Russia will start moving forward again and will once again be identified with horses not donkeys. But the coolest was Prokhorov's last campaign event held on Friday at the huge Olimpiyskiy sports complex.

With a laser beams, drums and flags reading "New president - new country," and the audience holding Facebook-style "like!" signs, Prokhorov entered the stage wearing jeans, a white shirt, and a simple jacket. In a short speech, he told his audience that he had made his choice "to move to the future," and asked them to join in and "build together a country that in 15 years, our kids will thank us for building the best country in the world." All that is needed, he said, was that we "stop being afraid." And if we do Russia can become a "European country." In these elections, he promised "it all just begins."

Then girls from the pop band Serebro took the stage. The Hebrew speakers in the crowd, and there must have been some, (according to Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar there are about 100000 Israelis living in Moscow) were probably wondering why Prokhorov's campaign logo, a stylized Russian "P", was so similar to the Hebrew "Hei." The girl band in tiny leotards and high boots sang "Mama Luba, davai!" ("Mama Luba, let's!"), later urging the crowd to sing "Uncle Misha, davai!"

Pop gave way to rock as Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine) and the former Israeli band B-2 preformed. Russian pop diva, Alla Pugacheva, Prokhorov's supporter, sang "The tallest one."

One of Prokhorov's supporters, 42-year-old Natalia Visovin, told Haaretz she’s been following Prokhorov for 6 years. He caught her attention when she was starting her small textile business and was looking for role models.

"He is a generator of ideas," she said with excitement. "People believe him and believe in him. If ballots aren’t falsified, I am sure there will be a second round and Prokhorov will win. Millions of people agree with me. Even if Putin wins, things have changed. The movement has begun and he won't take us back to the Soviet times.

For 75 years, we lived in stagnation. We don't want it anymore. We have the right to fulfill our ambitions, and Prokhorov can take us there."

Prokhorov had already announced that after the elections he will establish his own political party and will seek to include some prominent civic leaders.

He is quite skeptical about the news that an attempt had been made on the life of Prime Minister Putin. "I am not a detective, so I can't say if it's true or not. But the timing makes me suspicious. It allegedly happened over two month ago, but we have only leant about now. It looks as if it was prepared by Putin's campaign staff."

He is asked over and over about the alleged arrangement he had with Putin, including reports alleging Putin personally asked him to run. Claims he denies.

"Dogs are barking and the caravan is moving." Right now, he said, his team is preparing to follow and assess any wrongdoing during the voting and vote counting processes.

In response to questions posed by Haaretz about his views on the Middle East, he said he "vehemently objects to any military intervention in Syria," as it will eliminate the any possibility of solving the crisis in a peacefully, fatally undermining trust. He also said that his guiding principle in foreign policy is putting Russia in the center and act according to its interests. However, he added that he'd see "relations with democratic regimes in the Middle East as strategic partnerships," while relations with other regimes he will view as mere "trade relations."

"Two million Russians live in the Middle East," he said. "We need to strategically support our diaspora."

He admitted at the press-conference one needs "nerves made of steel" to be involved in politics. What helps him keep his notable calm is his love for sports. "You come back home, exercise for two hours - and feel as if you were reborn.”