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Russia's elite is out of touch - Prokhorov

© RIA Novosti. Vitaliy Belousov

Russia’s elite is sadly lacking the common touch, and has been for centuries, according to Mikhail Prokhorov.

The Onexim chief, whose estimated wealth of $17.85 billion makes him Russia’s second-richest man, said a lack of understanding had been the main drawback of the upper classes for 300-400 years.

In an interview due to be published in his aptly-titled magazine Snob, Prokhorov explains that there is a vibrant middle class in Russia – “the people who have taken personal loans and buy apartments and cars” – even though the country’s leaders often talk about the lack of any social strata between penthouse and pavement.

And he added that Russia’s modern-day rich and influential are afraid of taking responsibility for the rest of society – urging them to make certain personal sacrifices for the sake of the country’s overall prosperity, lenta.ru reported.

Let them eat cake

Evidence of an out-of-touch elite is alarmingly easy to find: Moscow Region governor Boris Gromov advised motorists to buy private helicopters to beat traffic jams this summer, while recently departed Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov vigorously denied claims he invested more time and money on protecting his bees from the smog than he spent serving his city.

Meanwhile, although Moscow famously boasts one of the world’s largest concentrations of billionaires, at the other end of the scale minimum wages hover around 7,000 roubles ($230) a month.

Prokhorov’s common touch

Many ordinary Russians are basketball fans, but the lanky Prokhorov has invested more than just ticket money in his passion for the sport and bought NBA franchise New Jersey Nets - pictured above at a training session at his beloved CSKA's arena - last year.

Now he’s in the process of building a new stadium for them in Brooklyn and hopes to create a title-winning squad for a team long regarded as losers in the US.

And at a time when the crisis forced many to downsize their domestic ambitions, Prokhorov followed suit.

He ditched reported plans to buy the world’s most expensive villa on the Cote d’Azur – at a cool 500 million Euros – and registered himself as a resident of a small flat in the remote Siberian village of Yeruda in Krasnoyarsk Region.

On a more serious level the businessman also set up a charitable foundation in 2004 which works to develop cultural and sporting organizations in Russia and promotes Russian culture abroad.

Source: The Moscow news

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More Resources

Commentary and opinions: a selection of excerpts from speeches and presentations by Mikhail Prokhorov