In 2000, Vladimir Putin became president of the Russian Federation for the first time. Not knowing much about him, Russians immediately welcomed this small, often shy man, especially because of the contrast with Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin, well known for his grotesque behaviour and drunken appearances.
A few years later, Putin is no longer timid. In fact he has brazenly assured everyone that he will remain president of Russia's fading empire for a long time, and even now, we still can not guess for how long he will continue to lead the country.
From the western perspective, it makes sense to wonder why a president who is supporting and initiating international military conflicts, who has brought his country to the edge of an economic collapse, and who is rejected by the international community can remain so popular in his own country and will more than likely be re-elected.
But Russian reality is totally different. For a majority of the population, Putin is a unique man, who will save their nation and cares about it. This point of view is heartily endorsed by nearly all media, by Putin himself, even by the so-called government "opposition", which is tolerated by the regime. Putin created a carefully crafted alternative reality for the Russian people, a reality in which all Ukrainians are fascists and the only enemy is the West, which is to blame for all of the country's problems. This message is broadcast through all news reports that are supported by made-up documentaries and polemic TV shows.
During his press conference yesterday, Putin spent more than three hours answering questions about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, as well as the Chechen attacks, Russian economics and media lies. A little more nervous than usual, but still very confident, he explained that the reasons for the economic problems in the country were external. Properly identifying the western enemy, he immediately pledged to stabilise the Russian economy, promising that it will be "not perfect but still strong" by 2015.
"We can do everything by ourselves", said Putin, garnishing his "alternative reality" for the Russian people. He skipped and did not answer the question from opposition journalist Ksenia Sobchak about the "poisoning" of the media, when she recalled a recent fake TV story made up by the federal Russian TV channel, which claimed that some children were being crucified by Ukrainians. Instead, Putin talked as if the Berlin Wall was still in place.
To me, it seems that for Putin the USSR never collapsed, and his activities in Ukraine reflect this.
People believe him
In his speech, Putin repeated that the West wants to destroy the Russian nation, "they want to chain our bear, break his nails, pull out his teeth and make a scarecrow from our bear". He promised to defend the country from the monstrous enemy. And you can be sure a majority of Russian people believed him.
This is the kind of speech Russian people are used to. Putin's language is so well known for them, and somehow understandable, after the long term USSR propaganda in which everyone who travelled abroad was worse than judas, and everything coming from the West, from music to food was an element of destruction of the nation planned by an exterior enemy.
Putin did not invent his own new strategy, he reused the old one, the one that successfully fed the dictatorial regime in USSR, and does the same for Putin's regime. And unfortunately, there is not much right now to go against it inside the country.
Actually, the Russia "not allowed" by the regime is weakened and not as visible as in 2011-2012 anymore. Some, like the Pussy Riot girls, have stopped acting and criticising the regime for unknown reasons, whereas others have fled the country and many remain in jail or are silenced by juridical problems. The atmosphere in Russia is not about an uprising, it is centred around nationalism, and solidarity with Putin.
For this reason, he is even more dangerous now to the world than a year ago. He will not leave, and he will not stop the international conflict, as the escalation of this conflict is in his interests. He is initiating a second round of the Cold War against the historical "enemy" of the nation: the West. He will not go for a truce, as his regime is predicated on this conflict.
I believe that now it is the turn of "the enemy". It is the West that has to stop Putin by taking legal action against him personally for the long list of international crimes that he has committed. He should appear in front of an international court for Crimea and the war in the east of Ukraine, for Syria and Chechnya, for the killed and arrested journalists and activists.
When in 2013 in Hanover five topless Femen activists surrounded him, shouting "F*ck Dictator", he only had the opportunity to protect himself with a ridiculous smile and a teenager's thumbs up. At that exact moment he was again just a small shy man without his regime and instruments of power and manipulation. He was miserable.
I just wonder why five female protesters with no clothes can expose to the world, even for a short moment, how lost Putin is without his power, and how come dozens of political leaders with instruments of power cannot.
Maybe they should give us a call for advice.
Inna Shevchenko is leader of the feminist protest group FEMEN, which often makes headline news across the world for demonstrating topless. Visit the Femen website or Twitter feed, or Inna's personal Twitter account, to find out more.