One of Russia's richest men and the architect of an abortive bid this year to launch a center-right political party, billionaire playboy Mikhail Prokhorov, now says he will challenge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in next year's presidential election.
Prokhorov called the move "the most important decision in my life."
"I'm going to run for president," he announced to journalists.
Prokhorov, who controls the Polys Gold metals mining company, was ranked as one of Russia's top five billionaires by "Forbes" magazine and was estimated to have a fortune of $18 billion in 2010.
Prokhorov is the former leader of the business-oriented Right Cause party, which finished with less than 1 percent of the vote in last week's parliamentary elections. Prokhorov resigned from the party in September.
"As you remember, the Kremlin removed me and my comrades from Right Cause and we could not accomplish what we wanted. It is not my habit to stop halfway," Prokhorov told reporters in announcing his presidential bid.
Kudrin Calls For Liberal Party
Putin has long been Russia's most popular politician, but was forced under the constitution to stand down in 2008 after two consecutive terms as president. He recently announced his plan to run in the March presidential election.
Meanwhile, former Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, a longtime Putin ally, has called for the creation of a liberal party to fill a void in Russian politics after the recent parliamentary voting.
"This election has shown a deficit of political forces or structures that would defend liberal, democratic values. And this deficit has proven to be more acute than we could have imagined 12 or six months ago," Kudrin said.
"So today, one can say with certainty that this deficit is so significant and the demand for the creation of such a structure is so high that it will be created."
Tens of thousands of Russians protested on December 10 over the outcome of the December 4 parliamentary elections that the opposition says were rigged in favor of the ruling United Russia party.
More protests are planned, and the Kremlin has made some concessions
-- at least symbolic ones -- in the face of mounting questions about the voting.
Observers say Kudrin's proposal could offer a way for Putin to channel discontent.
Kudrin also warned that the legitimacy of a presidential election Putin is expected to win in March would be undermined by any failure to address protesters' allegations of fraud in the parliamentary elections.
Kudrin's comments came in an interview with "Vedomosti."
compiled from agency and RFE/RL reports