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In Russia, a blogger takes on powerful Putin

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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.

"Navalny is right, but it's not likely that his letter will have much impact," says Alexei Makarkin, director of the independent Center for Political Technologies in Moscow.

"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.

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