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    Russian opposition elects its leaders online

    Navalny wins, says vote will unify activists

    A supporter in Moscow held a poster urging the release of Konstantin Lebedev, one of the jailed opposition activists.
    A supporter in Moscow held a poster urging the release of Konstantin Lebedev, one of the jailed opposition activists.

    MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin has had nothing but mockery for the protesters who have taken to the streets against him in unprecedented numbers. Russia’s opposition, he said, is no more than a gaggle of Internet dwellers with ‘‘no unified program, no clear and comprehensible way of achieving their unclear goals, and nobody who can actually do something.’’

    The opposition has set out to prove him wrong by formally choosing its leaders through an online election that ended Monday night. Nearly 82,000 voted in the election, which was intended to help the opposition present a more united front against the Kremlin and find a way to broaden its appeal as enthusiasm for street protests fades.

    Alexei Navalny, a charismatic corruption fighter who is a rock star among the protest leaders, won the most votes, confirming his leadership role among the diverse collection of liberals, leftists, and nationalists who make up the anti-Putin opposition.


    The elections will clarify ‘‘which people, which methods, and which ideology have the most support,’’ Navalny said in an interview.

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    Navalny won nearly 44,000 votes, while a sharp-tongued, larger-than-life poet, novelist, and columnist, Dmitry Bykov, came second followed by Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion turned opposition leader. Ksenia Sobchak, a glamorous TV host who became a face of Moscow protests, also made a strong performance, finishing fourth.

    Throughout the weekend, thousands of Russians, many of them middle age or older, stood in long lines on a central Moscow square to register to vote. Those with better Internet skills registered online.

    Despite a heavy police presence and occasional visits from pro-Kremlin activists, the event was peaceful and festive, with classic Russian rock songs playing over speakers. The voting was supposed to end Sunday night, but was extended for a day after a barrage of hacker attacks took down the servers for most of Saturday.

    Pressure on the opposition has increased since Putin began his third term as president in May. Protest leaders have come under criminal investigation, been called in for questioning, and had their homes and offices searched.


    Over the weekend, a leftist activist accused Russian security officers of kidnapping him in Ukraine and bringing him back to Russia, where he said he was tortured into confessing to organizing riots. Investigators said Monday that the activist, Leonid Razvozzhayev, had turned himself in. He is associated with leftist opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov, who is also under investigation.

    Also Monday, two members of the Pussy Riot punk band were transferred from Moscow to remote prison colonies, their lawyer said. Earlier this month, an appeals court upheld the two-year prison sentences handed to Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova for an irreverent anti-Putin protest in Moscow’s main cathedral in February.

    The court released a third member of the group by suspending her sentence.