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In Russia, a blogger takes on powerful Putin

Alexei Navalny's charge that Prime Minister Putin is abusing his power is gaining traction, showing the growing clout of Russia's blogosphere.

By Correspondent / June 24, 2011

Russian lawyer and blogger Alexei Navalny speaks during an interview with reporters in Moscow on May 31.

Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

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Moscow

A Russian blogger created a huge stir in Moscow by accusing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of abusing his office this week, demonstrating the growing influence of the blogosphere in this "managed democracy."

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Alexei Navalny charges that in building a new "popular front" to support his bid for national leadership, Mr. Putin is ignoring most of the tough regulations for creating a nongovernmental organization that he authored during his years in the Kremlin.

In the past, a single citizen complaining about the (possibly illegal) hypocrisies of the powerful would be unlikely to get very far. But Mr. Navalny is helping change that dynamic.

A tireless anticorruption campaigner, Navalny rocketed into public view last year by posting online documents that seemed to implicate the state-owned Transneft pipeline company in fraud amounting to billions of dollars.

"Navalny's blog has become very popular, and a lot of people are watching closely," says Alexei Lukatsky, a Moscow-based Internet consultant. "So far, the authorities try not to notice him."

But, perhaps due to the growing clout of Russia's blogosphere, Navalny's trenchant open letter to Russian chief prosecutor Yury Chaika, posted on his popular LiveJournal blog, has reappeared in the large daily newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, been widely discussed on the independent Ekho Moskvi radio station, and drawn a worried response from Mr. Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.

Putin announced the creation of the People's Front a month ago with the aim of "strengthening the country" and solving unspecified national problems, which many analysts interpreted as creating a vehicle for his ambitions for a presidential return.

Since then, millions of people and about 500 public organizations and private companies have joined up, and the Front has reportedly leased premises on Moscow's central Novy Arbat street.

Putin's Popular Front

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