Tycoon Prokhorov goes to war against Kremlin ideologue

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, the leader of a pro-reform party, on Thursday launched an unprecedented attack on the Kremlin's top ideologue, accusing him of stifling debate and misleading the country's leadership.

"This is a puppeteer who has long ago privatised the political system, puts pressure on media and misinforms the country's leadership," the charismatic leader of the Pravoye Delo (A Just Cause) pro-reform party told a convention.

"His name is Vladislav Yuryevich Surkov, first deputy chief of staff," said the businessman, ranked Russia's third richest man by Forbes magazine with a fortune of $18 billion.

"I will do everything I can to get him fired."

Surkov is considered one of the most influential Kremlin officials, who is credited with coining the term "sovereign democracy" to describe Russia's political system. He has worked with both Dmitry Medvedev and his predecessor in the Kremlin, current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Analysts called Prokhorov's speech the first such challenge to the authorities since the 2003 imprisonment of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who had funded opposition parties.

Such open defiance of authorities came across as startling in a country where top businesspeople and political parties have for years toed the Kremlin line


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