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Webmedev? Russian president's new blog gets earful from the masses

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Another, "senseone," wanted to know if he could use the site to go over the heads of officials in his hometown: "Can I complain about our local authorities here?... So that they'll get punished later?"

www.putin.com? Nyet

The LiveJournal social networking site has nearly 3 million Russian language users, and Medvedev's blog is something of a latecomer. Other leading Russian politicians, including oppositionist Boris Nemtsov, liberal billionaire Alexander Lebedev, and upper house parliamentary speaker Sergei Mironov, have had online presences there for quite awhile.

But the Kremlin's bold move online has triggered a storm of discussion among the old-fashioned commentariat, some of whom praise Medvedev for breaking through the suffocating filters imposed by officialdom and appealing straight to the person-on-the-street.

"It's a serious political move," says Vyacheslav Igrunov, director of the independent Institute of Humanitarian and Political Studies in Moscow. "He's seeking to win his political independence, to establish his own personal face."

Mr. Igrunov's suggestion is that Medvedev, a self-confessed Internet geek, may be using the medium to differentiate himself from his still-powerful mentor and predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who used to hold marathon televised press conferences (for more on these, click here), but has yet to venture into cyberspace.

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