If Putin allowed a truly free vote in March elections, he would likely not win a majority and be forced into a runoff. But he would almost certainly win that second round, fair and square – and fairness is what Russian protesters demand.
The frequent arrests of one veteran anti-Kremlin activist, Sergei Udaltsov, have gained him a broader base of support among Russia's opposition than he could previously claim.
Alexei Navalny, a vocal critic of Putin and leader in Russia's protest movement, could pose a tough threat to his presidential bid.
At least 30,000 Muscovites protested Putin's grip on government this weekend. Monday, a new challenger, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, jumped into Russia's presidential race.
Will Russian billionaire and New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov team up with Alexei Kudrin to challenge Vladimir Putin in Russia's presidential election?
Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party lost seats in Sunday's parliamentary election. As Russian discontent grows, can Putin regain lost ground in his presidential election bid?
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has trumpeted a system of 'managed democracy' that has virtually guaranteed his party's grip on Russian politics – until now.
Gorbachev calls it a 'bad copy' of the Communist Party. But the United Russia party has relentlessly trounced any serious opposition to Putin, who is now running for president again.
Some analysts say a declaration by either President Medvedev or Prime Minister Putin could upend Russian politics well ahead of next year's presidential vote.