Mikhail Prokhorov, age 44, occupies 39th position in the Forbes list of world billionaires; his net worth is $13.4 billion (read his Forbes profile).
In an unexpected turn of events, Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire and owner of the American basketball team, the New Jersey Nets, was elected the leader of the liberal opposition party "The Right Cause" (Pravoye Delo). Immediately after the confirmation of his leadership, he announced that "there are no reasons to keep Khodorkovsky in prison," and that he is going to fight for the Russia's prime-minister's position in the upcoming post-elections leadership shuffle. Prokhorov made his wealth similarly to Khodorkovsky in the chaos of the post-Soviet Nineties, but has been smart--unlike Khodorkovsky--to stay away from the politics and to obtain the ownership of several foreign entities, which buys him the "escape route" in case something goes "wrong." Similarly, another Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has been the owner of the English premier soccer club Chelsea.
Almost simultaneously, President Medvedev announced the introduction of the bill that will lower the needed minimum votes quota for entering the Russian Duma from 7% to 5%, and potentially even 3%; but only in 2016. (Russian liberals have been failing to gain even 1% in prior elections, which has kept them away from the country's leadership altogether.)
All the developments come in the light of the unsuccessful bid for governmental registration of another opposition party--the People's Freedom Party "PARNAS"--lead by the old-timers Mikhail Kasyanov, Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Ryzhkov and Vladimir Milov, who had government positions in Yeltsin's and Putin's offices. According to the government, the registration papers of PARNAS contained signatures from under-aged and deceased citizens. The government claims were valid, which makes it unclear why the "new" opposition party with the weathered leadership didn't invest time and effort into a proper due-diligence, and why it is not trying to recollect the signatures if its members are truly passionate about standing up to Putin's United Russia. Just as with the monthly protests in Moscow, seems like the main purpose of the registration exercise was to fail it and attract the West's attention. It is important to remember that the so-called liberal leaders made their wealth and names in the Putin's system and not outside of it. On the brighter side, Mikhail Prokhorov's new political leadership, goals, and personal wealth might have significantly changed Russia's political spectrum overnight.
UPDATE (June 26, 2011, 6PM EST): Hours ago, Mikhail Prokhorov announced that he will spend at least $100 million of personal money for "The Right Cause" opposition party's election campaign. After all, the world may witness more suspense during the upcoming Russian elections than expected!