The stand-off between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and anti-government protesters may escalate into a civil war, billionaire presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov was cited as saying.
“I’m for Russia with Putin, but also for Russia with writer Boris Akunin and blogger Alexei Navalny, who demand Putin’s resignation,” Prokhorov told influential German weekly Der Spiegel in an interview published on Monday.
“If opposing parties fail to move toward each other, the worst case scenario is a civil war,” said Prokhorov, who will run against Putin and three others in the presidential elections on March 4.
The businessman, whose fortune is estimated at $18 billion, urged “evolution, not revolution” and acknowledged that “Putin has achievements,” but also promised sweeping political and economic reforms if he wins the vote.
Putin faced the biggest street protests in two decades after his party, United Russia, won the parliamentary elections in December. Skeptics insist the result was only achieved through vote rigging and speculate that similar fraud is being planned for the March vote.
December’s protests were peaceful, which earned them praise even from Putin and Medvedev. One prominent exception was Navalny, who cautioned the Kremlin in his own speech at one of the rallies about possible escalation of the stand-off in case the government ignores protesters’ demands.
Many pro-Kremlin pundits warned ahead of the rallies they are a preparation for an “Orange revolution” scenario of removing the ruling establishment through street protests.
The original Orange revolution took place in Ukraine in 2004 and ended in regime change, but no bloodshed.