Is Russia in danger of falling apart? Last week Dmitry Medvedev, the head of the presidential administration, warned that Russia could disappear if the political élite did not "consolidate" around President Vladimir Putin. "The disintegration of the [Soviet Union] would seem like a kindergarten in comparison," he told the magazine Expert. A day later, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov mused in the tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets about 2008, when Putin is required to step down. "I can't see anyone other than Putin" running the country, Luzhkov said.
After uprisings in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, some fear for Russia's own future. "The [Kremlin] used to talk about modernization, integrating the country into the community of civilized nations. Now they talk of preservation," says Andrei Kortunov of think tank New Eurasia. Vladimir Ryzhkov, an independent Duma member, thinks the Kremlin is preparing to alter the constitution so Putin can remain in power.
Ryzhkov claims to have seen two memorandums, prepared by the security services, arguing for this change. Ryzhkov says the message was: "We have a new style of leader. Now we need a new constitution." But even in a third term, Putin could face the same old problem of stalled political and economic reform.