It's been easy to get worried about Russia re-emerging as a threat to the United States in the past year, especially as the country's government buddies up with China, but at least the Russian people seem to be over the old school style of strong man Russian governing.
An unprecedented protest by tens of thousands of Russians claiming elections were rigged has prompted the Kremlin to promise to look into fraud charges and may be the first major threat to Vladimir Putin's uncontested hold on power.
"If Putin ignores this, then it will mean a threat to his presidency," Gennady Gudkov, a parliamentarian with the opposition party A Just Russia said on Sunday.
If few had doubts that Putin would win his third presidential election in 12 years in March, then "this question is now not as certain as it was in the past," Gudkov said.
At least 30,000 people and perhaps as many as 100,000 turned up Saturday despite the wind and wet snow in Bolotnaya Square to demand a recount of the Dec. 4 parliamentary vote, in which Putin's United Russia won nearly half the vote. The protests near the Kremlin were the largest in post-Soviet history.
Protesters from all political factions said they were fed up in general with the government's corruption and inefficiency. Many shouted "Down with Putin," and "Russia without Putin."
Roman Braun, an entrepreneur in his mid-20s, held up a sign showing pictures of Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, with a caption saying it was time for them to move on.
"I came because I think we've had enough of sitting in kitchens and talking about it, and it's time to come out and make a civil stand," he said.