The self-imposed isolation in Siberia on his 62-th birthday might signal President Putin's next Eltzinite move - appoint succesor and retire. The rapidly worsening situation in Russia seems beyond his control with warring fractions openly engaging in battles across a wide power front.
He has made several attempts to leave but has so far been unable to reach a compromise with the different clans and find a successor able to restore and upkeep the delicate domestic power balances.
With the devaluaton of the ruble, double digit inflation and sinking energy revenues and above all with western sanction biting deeper and deeper he might easily come to the conclusion that an earlier exit might be the best option at hand for him to be in control of his leave - with all the personal guarantees.
He has tried in the past to
retire but has been unable to balance between the interests of the different clans.
By appointing a successor he could spare himself the disgrace of a forceful exit under unpredictable circumstances and a inevitable drop in popularity.
With all the ado about new openings to China and Asia - Russia has no alternative but to remain anchored to Europe. It is not only the natural self identification pivot of its elite but the only hope for its modernization.
Putin is not the man to restore relations with the West and he might decide that it is time to go.