Security Experts:

DDoS Attacks Spoil Putin Foes' Online Leadership Poll

MOSCOW - The Russian protest movement Saturday launched an online vote for a 45-member council to spearhead the drive against President Vladimir Putin, but an online attack scuppered the polling.

In the two-day vote to elect a "shadow parliament", more than 200 candidates fielded by diverse anti-Putin forces -- from ex-chess king Garry Kasparov to regular students and activists -- are vying for a spot on a so-called Coordinating Committee.

The Internet voting was due to have been conducted nationally on the cvk2012.org website Saturday and Sunday after an initial registration period.

But the site became unresponsive by the time elections began in Moscow at 8:00 am (0400 GMT).

Organizers said the site was the victim of a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) attack that opposition forces have blamed in the past on pro-Kremlin youth groups that wage Internet war against the opposition.

"We have not been able to deal with the attack at this stage," Coordinating Committee representative Leonid Volkov told Moscow Echo radio.

The highly symbolic poll's sole purpose is to inject new energy into a protest movement that has lost steam since last winter when it appeared to pose the first serious challenge to Putin's 13-year rule.

Since Putin stormed back to a third term as president in March elections, the opposition has largely failed to generate excitement for its rallies.

Organizers decided they needed new leaders -- people with popular backing who felt they represented real constituencies and thus were more closely connected with the rank-and-file opposition.

In addition to the online voting, a handful of special polling stations have been set up in Moscow and a few other large cities that have been the focus of most opposition activity in the past.

But the voting has generated almost no interest in the provinces and few Russians nationally seem to be aware of it as state media continue to devote their attention to Putin and his daily affairs.