His people, his top ministers, members of his inner circle, were untouchable. The law, to quote a popular refrain from the opposition, was only for his enemies.
But with the sacking of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov earlier this month over a defense procurement corruption scandal, that appears to have changed.
Suddenly, it looks like nobody is untouchable. The Russian media have been filled with speculation that a major government shake-up is in the works.
Is a purge on the way for Team Putin? And if so, to what ends? In this week's edition of the Power Vertical podcast, I discuss this issue with co-hosts Kirill Kobrin of RFE/RL's Russian Service and NYU Professor Mark Galeotti, author of the "In Moscow's Shadows" blog.
Listen to or download the podcast above, or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.