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Leonid Bershidsky

Hunger Striker Oleg Shein Becomes Russia's Opposition Hero

Demoralized as the Russian capital's protest movement may be, there are still plenty of angry people out in the hinterlands. They have less to lose than well-fed Muscovites, and president-elect Vladimir Putin has yet to figure out how to handle them.

In the southern provincial capital of Astrakhan, population 520,000, a soft-spoken, bespectacled historian named Oleg Shein has emerged as the new hope of the opposition. As of this writing, he has been on hunger strike for more than a month, putting his life on the line to prove that the city's mayoral elections were stolen from him. Federal officials, including Putin, have been forced to take notice.