Unfortunately Putin can't be photographed doing something rugged as he did in the past to win over support. That was so yesterday. With the crowds of protesters increasing Putin had little choice but to acknowledge the demands for change. He's going to have to do a lot more than superficial changes if he wants the protests to stop. The Guardian:
The order by president Dmitry Medvedev to make Vladislav Surkov a deputy prime minister in charge of economic modernisation was variously interpreted as a sign that leaders recognise the need for significant reform and as a cosmetic move with little meaning. Allegations of fraud in December's national parliamentary election sparked a wave of protests unprecedented in post-Soviet Russia, including two vast rallies in Moscow that attracted tens of thousands. Putin, who was president in 2000-2008, seeks to return to the Kremlin in elections in March, and the protests have undermined his image as the inevitable winner. Putin and Medvedev have sought to dilute the protests by rolling out a set of proposed political reforms, but have firmly resisted the protest leaders' main demand that the parliament elections be annulled and rerun. Opposition forces also say the proposed reforms are too little and too late.