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Defying Putin: 7 Russians to watch

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Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption lawyer Alexei Navalny speaks to the media at Moscow's Arbitration Court, Russia, Thursday.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

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4. Alexei Navalny, anti-corruption blogger

Regarded by many as the most impressive new leader to emerge from the grassroots and a man to watch, lawyer and anti-corruption blogger Mr. Navalny came to public attention over the past year by using his LiveJournal blog (recently made available in English) to document a case of alleged massive graft in the state pipeline company Transneft and to slam other abuses of power by authorities. He is best known as author of the viral phrase "party of rogues and thieves" to describe Putin's ruling United Russia party. Arrested in an unsanctioned rally to protest electoral fraud on Dec. 5, Navalny emerged from prison 15 days later with his street cred greatly enhanced and some people already citing him as a possible presidential contender capable of challenging Putin. Nominations for March 4 presidential polls are already closed, but Navalny has made clear that he will work against Putin and could run against him if it became possible. Addressing the massive Dec. 24 rally in Moscow, Navalny flirted with sedition by remarking, "I can see that there are enough people here to seize the Kremlin right now. We are a peaceful force and will not do it now. But if these rogues and thieves try to go on cheating us, if they continue telling lies and stealing from us, we will take what belongs to us with our own hands." Some Russian opposition leaders warn that too little is known about Navalny, and that he has yet to explain his alleged associations with Russia's shadowy ultra-nationalist movement.

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