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.
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"Companies across Russia have been responding with enthusiasm to Putin’s proposal that their teams join the People’s Front. They are sending greetings and actually joining that association," Navalny wrote. "But at the current time the United People’s Front has not acquired the [legal] status of a public association... . It is unclear how the People’s Front, not being a legal entity or a public association, that is, without being subject to civil law, could conclude a lease agreement for non-residential premises and office staff."Skip to next paragraph
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Moreover, Navalny continued, Putin and Mr. Peskov have held meetings on behalf of the Front using government offices and state personnel – including themselves – and other taxpayer-funded resources, which Russian law forbids.
Navalny urged Mr. Chaika to investigate the allegations, which, if proven, would be "grounds to liquidate it or ban its activities" under strict Putin-era legislation designed to keep politically active NGOs under tight state supervision and control.
Many analysts say Navalny is doing the equivalent of shouting "the emperor has no clothes," though few expect much to come of it.
"In Russia there is little respect for the law, or proper procedures. Many people still place their hopes for the better future on Putin, so if he wants to create his movement they will agree that it's necessary," he says. "But, let's be clear, people are only indifferent in these general areas that don't touch upon their direct material interests. If Putin wanted to slash pensions by even a few rubles, he'd never hear the end of that."
50 million Russians online
The Russian-language Internet, known as Ru.net, has exploded to almost 50 million users in recent years, with 1 in 4 Russian families now having broadband coverage.
According to Russia's leading Internet company, Yandex, there are 3.5 million blogs now inhabiting Ru.net, the only Russian media space that features freewheeling discussion and no official interference, despite a recent suspicious hacker attack on a popular website.
Experts differ over the political implications of having an expanding island of robust free speech within a society where it is still considered futile, if not dangerous, to openly challenge authority.
"The influence of the bloggers' community is growing noticeably," says Rustem Agadamov, author of the popular blog Drugoi. "Even the traditional mass media recognize this, because they quote more and more from blogs and use them as sources of information."