Whatever the final percentages are when yesterday's votes are all counted, there is no denying that a different political atmosphere has taken hold in Russia since Vladimir Putin announced he was going back to the Kremlin.
Mr Putin will still win March elections, of course, and easily. How much that is down to his genuine popular appeal, and how much it is down to control of the media or a lack of credible alternatives depends on who you talk to.
Even though everyone knew he would probably return, the confirmation set off something akin to a collective sigh of disappointment and annoyance. The prevailing mood seems to have drifted from political apathy with tacit approval for the regime, to apathy with tacit disapproval.
How long that new disapproval will take to mature into genuine discontent with Mr Putin among wide swathes of the population – if it ever does – remains to be seen.Reuse content