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Defying Putin: 7 Russians to watch

Tens of thousands of Russians marched in the streets in December to protest vote-rigging. From this movement, fresh leaders are emerging in Russia, without the Kremlin's backing.

- Correspondent

Russia's opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov (l.) leaves the court in Moscow, Russia, Sunday. In Russia, a prison stint can be a must on the resume of anyone who aspires to lead an anti-Kremlin protest movement. (Mikhail Metzel/AP)

6. Sergei Udaltsov, leader of the left

A veteran street activist who has been arrested more than 100 times in the past five years, Mr. Udaltsov is the leader of Left Front, a loose coalition of leftists that appears to be held together mainly by the force of his strong (some say charismatic) personality. Russian authorities have repeatedly refused to register his organization as a political party, and have directed a disproportionate amount of police repression against Udaltsov personally. On Duma election day, Dec. 4, he was preemptively arrested and has been kept in custody since then on a variety of pretexts that lawyers and human rights activists describe as illegal. Udaltsov's ongoing ordeal, including serious health complications from a hunger strike, prompted supporters to stage a peaceful rally demanding his release on Moscow's Pushkin Square on Thursday evening. The rally was forbidden by authorities and surrounded by hundreds of heavily armored riot police. Udaltsov's lawyer, Violetta Volkova, says that when dealing with Udaltsov "the system just doesn't work as it's supposed to… I have come to the conclusion that my client is a political prisoner who is suffering primarily for his personal convictions."


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