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Vladimir Bryntsalov

Russia's Ross Perot

He's got the money, the business savvy, the tact

June 6, 1996
Web posted at: 10:50 p.m. EDT (0250 GMT)

From Moscow Bureau Chief Eileen O'Connor

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Perhaps because Russia's upcoming election is so novel, some of its most marginal candidates, people who would normally never even be heard outside of their own country, are drawing attention.


I'm rich, I'm strong
(1.4M QuickTime movie)


One, Vladimir Bryntsalov, believes he is Russia's man of the hour, with the ability to set a new beat for the Russian electorate and offer another alternative to the major candidates, including Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Sound familiar? The self-proclaimed richest man in Russia is his country's answer to U.S. businessman-turned-candidate Ross Perot, although Bryntsalov is a bit more flamboyant. The 49-year-old pharmaceutical magnate flaunts a wife 20 years younger than he, who helped him pick out a luxe wardrobe and an $80,000 Rolex.

Russian Ross Perot

"I'm rich, I'm strong," he proclaims. "I'll teach everybody, and force people to do what they're supposed to do." His rhetoric could probably use a little polishing, but that doesn't stop Bryntsalov from spending oodles of his hard-earned cash on a campaign that will win him more attention than votes.

To win votes, he is promising paradise. "There will be no poor pensioners, no poor workers, no poor entrepreneurs, no poor farmers," he claims.

Bryntsalov calls his plan "Russian socialism." Its strategy: Firms like his pharmaceutical conglomerate will pay as much as companies in other industrialized nations, and the workers will in turn be able to pay bigger income taxes, while also buying products they cannot now afford. Thus, they will simultaneously increase production, and enrich the cycle.

Yeltsin votes

His plan sounds good on paper, except that many Russian firms can't begin to pay such wages in the first place.

Such details don't both Bryntsalov, who worries only about his image. "You are the voters, I am an item on sale. You don't like it, you don't take it," he said.

His flash and cash will get him some votes -- although probably not enough to make a dent this time. While some deem him a clown, Bryntsalov may well have the last laugh. Like Perot, he may not become president, but he could be a political player nonetheless.

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