Putin Launches Presidential Bid, Warns West

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Putin also said he would pursue his project of forming a Eurasian Union to boost integration between Russia and its neighbors, restoring some of the links that were destroyed when the Soviet Union collapsed 20 years ago.

He offered little new to address the calls from businessmen, economists and political liberals for reforms seen as necessary for Russia to modernize its economy and further its development.

"The signals so far have certainly been: no change, more of the same, muddling along, stability even if it comes at a high cost," said Masha Lipman, a scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

She said any reforms that would increase public participation and encourage initiative are rightly seen as a serious risk for the political monopoly that Putin has established.

"Power is concentrated at the top, there is ultimately one arbiter," Lipman said. "I see no reason why this will change."

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