Here's part of Valeriy Panyushkin's Feb. 25 column in Gazeta.ru (in Russian) - Russia Without Putin:
[...] And on the same day, the U.S. President Bush boasted that the Russian President Putin was losing the election in Moldova, and that Moldova was now on a path of democracy - the one pointed out by the United States.
And on the same day, the court in Strasbourg ruled that the war in Chechnya violated human rights, and now President Putin can no longer interrupt journalists at press conferences - like, who specifically is the person whose right have been violated, what's his last name and address? Here it is, in the materials of the Strasbourg Court!
And on the same day, Mikhail Kasyanov held a press conference, seemingly to announce the creation of a private consulting company, but in reality he announced that he would compete for the president's post in 2008.
Have they all conspired or what?!
And if that's not enough, Russia was also forced to lower the duty on foreign-made planes, and it became absolutely clear that the national airplane industry wasn't going to survive, and President Putin has lost support from major industrialists, who are convinced that, because of their inefficiency, I, a Russian citizen, have to fly on uncomfortable planes.
And if that's not enough, Aslan Maskhadov also offered a truce plan, and the soldiers' mothers did go for talks with Akhmed Zakayev after all.
And you know what I think it means? I think it means Russia has begun to live apart from President Vladimir Putin and apart from the vertical of power constructed by President Vladimir Putin.
The empire-minded are building an empire by themselves - actually, two empires are being built, because the Kremlin administration is building its own man-eating empire, and Anatoliy Chubais is building a liberal one of his own, and it's not clear which one is more man-eating.
Soldiers' mothers are negotiating peace in Chechnya by themselves.
Liberals are uniting on their own, and not as it was intended but as it's supposed to be done.
The impression is that various groups and elites have set off a very serious power struggle - and each group is using methods of its own. And it's not clear who's going to win. And it's possible that someone totally horrible wins, or perhaps it'll be someone decent.
One thing is clear: all these groups are fighting among themselves not for President Vladimir Putin anymore. They are fighting as if President Vladimir Putin was no longer there. As if he's turned into a mere decoration and existed only because there had to be someone to host at the highest level all those high-ranking foreign guest who were coming to Russia in May to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Victory.