Moscow, Dec 18: From a Western perspective, Vladimir Putin's days as president of Russia should be numbered: the ruble has lost more than half its value, the economy is in crisis and his aggression in Ukraine has turned the country into an international pariah.
The situation as seen from a Russian point of view is starkly different from that painted in the West, and it is driven largely by state television's carefully constructed version of reality and the Kremlin's methodical dismantling of every credible political alternative.
As Putin prepares to face his public in a much-anticipated televised news conference, an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released today found that about 80 per cent of Russians still support him. But it also showed that confidence in the economy is slipping.
This is particularly true in Moscow, where people have become accustomed to imported goods and foreign travel, now once again off-limits for many because of the fall of the ruble and Western sanctions over Ukraine.
The poll was conducted between November 22 and December 7, when the Ruble was steadily declining. But this week's catastrophic collapse is likely to have a much greater effect on consumer prices and the standard of living.
For Putin, the question is whether he will be able to convince Russians to tighten their belts, and not just for a few months but possibly for years to come.
"The Russian people have a sense that they are under sanctions, they are a fortress under siege," said Maria Lipman, an independent analyst.