Putin opens cabinet door to rival tycoon Prokhorov

Putin opens cabinet door to rival tycoon Prokhorov

MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Putin opens cabinet door to rival tycoon Prokhorov

Tycoon Prokhorov (R) has been offered a seat in the cabinet by Vladimir Putin. REUTERS photo

Vladimir Putin yesterday suggested a seat in the cabinet for his reform-minded rival Mikhail Prokhorov but vehemently rejected opposition claims of fraud in his poll win.

His comments came as anti-Putin forces prepared to regroup at a mass rally in Moscow tomorrow that the city said would be allowed to draw up to 50,000 people. The Russian strongman gave few indications on March 8 about whether he was ready to offer concessions to the first protest movement of his 12-year rule.

 He said the billionaire Prokhorov -- owner of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets and an independent at the polls who came in third with eight percent of the vote -- would be welcome in his new cabinet. “Mikhail Dmitriyevich (Prokhorov) is a serious man, a good businessman,” said Putin.

“In principle, he could be in demand in the government, if he should want this himself.” The suggestion is unlikely to placate many of Putin’s biggest critics and Prokhorov himself previously rejected the idea of joining the government until it undertakes fundamental reforms. The tycoon wrote on his Twitter account that he planned to take a post-campaign vacation and offered no immediate response.

Putin will be sworn in on May 7 after winning 63.6 percent of the vote. He said he will discuss his new team’s makeup with President Dmitry Medvedev. Putin’s tone turned far more aggressive however when addressing charges from the opposition that a fair vote count would have given him a much lower level of support. “Violations were possible and probably happened. But they could have only affected hundredths of one percent -- possibly one percent. But no more.” Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced concern March 7 about the arrest of protesters after elections but said Washington looks forward to working with Vladimir Putin. Clinton repeated U.S. calls for reported voting irregularities to be investigated.