For more than a decade, he's been dominating the airwaves. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said this. President Vladimir Putin did that. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin criticized this. President Vladimir Putin signed that.
And for months now, we've been hearing his name chanted derisively on the streets of Moscow and other cities: "Putin must go!" "Russia without Putin!" "Putin is a thief!"
From his splashy debut on the scene more than 12 years ago, when he famously vowed to rub out the Chechen rebels in the outhouse, Putin has been the alpha male at the epicenter of Russian politics. So it's not surprising that as opposition to the current regime spreads, the focus has largely been on Putin personally. His leaving the scene is seen as a necessary precondition for any change.
But how central is Putin really? And how centralized and vertically integrated is the Russian political system? Is Putin's departure necessary for change? Or can Russia change with him?
On this week's edition of "The Power Vertical Podcast," I discuss the nature of the Russian regime -- and Putin's role in it -- with my regular co-host, Kirill Kobrin, managing editor of RFE/RL's Russian Service.
Also on the podcast, Kirill and I talk about media reports that socialite-turned-activist Ksenia Sobchak may be facing an investigation into her taxes and what that might mean.
Listen to or download the podcast below, or subscribe to The Power Vertical Podcast on iTunes.