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Putin strong at 60 but economic challenges loom
Vulnerable leader » The Russian economy still depends entirely on an oil-and-gas bonanza.

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Putin will find himself at the center of public discontent in case of an economic downturn. If that happens, analysts say, the president would likely try to deflect the threat by sacrificing his protege Dmitry Medvedev, who became prime minister this year after serving as loyal presidential placeholder for four years, with Putin in the premiership due to term limits.

"Putin will fire Medvedev in case of a severe economic crisis caused by external factors," Belkovsky said.

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