Vladimir Putin’s return to the Russian presidency represents much more than a setback for the country’s protest movement. It is a major defeat.
To understand why, consider the sudden celebrity of Irina Prokhorova, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s older sister.
Before this month’s elections, she acted as her brother’s proxy in a presidential debate against the charismatic and Oscar-winning film mogul Nikita Mikhalkov, who was standing in for Putin. With a few well-placed phrases, the calm, well- educated Prokhorova dismantled Mikhalkov’s arguments so thoroughly that he ended up offering her his vote.
Commentators parroted the director’s praise, building her up as a presidential candidate in her own right and calling her Russia’s answer to Angela Merkel. Never mind that Prokhorova, a publisher of high-brow literature who also manages her brother’s charitable initiatives, has no political platform, and no desire or particular qualifications to run the country.