The intervention of Moscow's most prominent anti-Putin activists in a city 800 miles from the capital has put a local mayoral race on the national stage.
After failing to pose a powerful enough challenge in Moscow to derail Vladimir Putin's drive for a third presidential term and disrupt the Kremlin-controlled system of "managed democracy," opposition leaders are taking their struggle into Russia's far-flung provinces, where they say electoral fraud is still rampant.
At the center of attention is the small Caspian city of Astrakhan, 800 miles southeast of Moscow (see map) and once known as the caviar capital of Russia. Moscow's leading opposition figures, such as blogger Alexei Navalny, parliamentarian Ilya Ponomaryov, journalist Leonid Parfyonov, TV celebrity-turned-protest-leader Ksenia Sobchak, and Moscow street doctor Elizaveta Glinka have congregated there this week.
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