As Vladimir Putin celebrates victory in Russia's presidential elections, an emboldened protest movement is planning a long campaign against him.
"Many Russians, especially in Moscow, are not going to accept Vladimir Putin as a legitimate president and even if Putin survives March and the next two months prior to the inauguration, he's badly wounded, maybe even deadly wounded as a political leader and I have no doubt that he will not survive the next six years."
- Garry Kasparov, an opposition figure
No one quite knows how the Kremlin will react - indulging the protests as they have since December or cracking down as they did in the past.
But the political opposition is just one of the obstacles Putin will face when he begins his six years in office.
A stagnating economy and rampant corruption provide challenges he may be unable, or unwilling, to overcome.
So, with Putin returning to the Kremlin, is Russia heading in the right direction? Who holds power in Russia today? What sort of country has evolved under United Russia Party rule? And will Putin's third term cement his legacy as a tsar or a reformer?
Inside Story, with presenter Sami Zeidan, discusses with Roman Dobrokhotov, the founder of 'Walking without Putin'; Sergei Alexandrovich Markov, a special electoral representative for Vladimir Putin and the vice-president of the Russian Economic University; and Federico Varese, a professor at Oxford University, an expert on Russian politics and the author of The Russian Mafia. Private Protection in a New Market Economy.
"This was a very important test for all of us - [a] test of political maturity, independence, sovereignty. We showed that no one can dictate anything to us. We showed that our people can distinguish between the desire for changes and the provocations aimed at breaking up our country."
Vladimir Putin, Russia's president
FACTS: PUTIN'S POLITICAL CONTROL
- With little opposition Putin won elections in 2000 and again in 2004 with a landslide majority of 71%
- As president, Putin's reforms centralised state power in the Kremlin
- He restored the government's control over a substantial part of the oil and gas industries and re-stabilised Russia's economy after the crisis of 1998
- His party, United Russia, is the largest party in country and has dominated the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, since 2003
- Due to term limits, Putin stepped down in 2008 to become prime minister while Dmitry Medvedev succeeded him as president, yet many felt Putin still held power behind the scenes
- His control of power in Russian society has been extensive, with his influence being felt in both the judiciary and the media
- In 2003, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a critic of Putin and once Russia's richest man, was controversially jailed for tax evasion and many wealthy opposition figures have ended up as fugitives living in exile abroad
Source: Al Jazeera