``Putin's decision to annex Crimea has been immensely popular at home. His rating immediately skyrocketed to an all-time high of 75% even as the economy is sinking. At a stroke he has restored Russia's sense of pride after 20 years of shame: the independent Levada Centre found 63% of respondents said modern Russia has regained the status of a superpower, the highest level in the history of the poll... Putin appears to have recaptured the political initiative that he lost following the street protests of December 2011''

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