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Online activists stalk Russia lawmakers

Five members of Russia's Duma have resigned from the parliament since December 2011, apparently pushed out of public life by a new breed of Russian bloggers.

The latest casualty, Vladimir Pekhtin, quit last week after blogger Andrei Zayaki found documents that he secretly owned $2 million of property in Florida. Pekhtin had chaired the Duma's Ethics and Credentials Commission.

Zayakin, according to a story Wednesday in the Moscow Times, blogs under the name Doctor Z (doct_z). His discovery of Pekhtin's secret U.S. holdings was republished by Alexei Navalny, the country's most popular anti-corruption blogger.

Earlier this month, two other deputies from Vladimir Putin's ruling party also quit. Anatoly Lomakin and Vasily Tolstopyatov, according to sources, 'feared that strict rules on business activities would have been applied to them if they had remained in the legislature,' the Moscow Times said.

Two other Duma members left in the fall 'after accusations that they were illegally running businesses alongside their parliamentary duties,' the story said.

Zayakin, who lives in Spain, told the Moscow Times 'that if only enough Internet activists join in, they would have a chance to overthrow the ruling regime.'

"I believe that 100,000 activists sitting in front of their PCs,' he said, 'will be able to replace the regime faster than 100,000 activists waving banners on the streets.'

In Moscow, meanwhile, new government-led corruption investigations are targeting the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Prison Service. 

Those high-profile investigations, initiated by Putin, are reportedly changing the business atmosphere in Russia, causing bureaucrats to think twice before demanding bribes.

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