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The Year Of Living Cleanly?

Russia is so mired in corruption that nothing else there seems to matter.

It ranks 143 on the corruption perceptions index, tied with Nigeria and Uganda, among others.

It’s not just business that’s corrupt. So are politics.

Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party allegedly stole the December parliamentary elections by stuffing a million or more votes into ballot boxes.

But something big is happening.

Hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of Russians are taking to the streets across Russia’s nine time zones, in the middle of winter, to protest against the sleaze.

Alexei Navalny, above, 35, a lawyer and leading anti-corruption blogger, has emerged as the leader of the opposition. He’s capable and charismatic. Think JFK — young, smart, careful, courageous, handsome, witty, articulate, optimistic, and modern.

The presidential elections are in March. Until a few weeks ago, most people assumed Putin would win again. He stepped down as president four years ago because of term limits and became prime minister.

Navalny labeled United Russia as the “party of swindlers and thieves,” and the name stuck.

This week he told a Moscow radio station: “I’m ready to fight for leadership positions, including the post of president.”

Even former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, who hasn’t said much for the past twenty years, followed Navalny’s lead, telling Putin to resign and hold new parliamentary elections.

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