Stratfor discusses Putin's hold on power:
Putin's grasp on power is not easy to gauge from outside the Kremlin. The decision for new leadership is made within the Kremlin walls, not among the people. Previous Russian leaders, from Nikita Khrushchev to Leonid Brezhnev to Yeltsin, were removed or pushed aside by the ones closest to them. Thus, it seems fitting that the current Russian leader chose to celebrate his birthday far from the Kremlin and its clans.
That would be fitting, if perhaps not likely--this time.
UPDATE: Putin might want to head back to the forest:
Vulgar chants about Vladimir Putin before he arrived for a regional summit in Belarus did not augur well for the Russian president's hopes of bringing the leaders of former Soviet republics closer together.
Matters got even worse when bickering broke out at the start of the meeting, revealing fault lines over the Ukraine crisis and deepening doubts about the future of the loose grouping known as the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Jibes between Putin and the leader of Moldova, and barbs aimed at the absent Ukrainian leader, raised new questions about his ability to woo countries to the Eurasian Economic Union he is creating to try to rival the European Union's economic might.
And this is supposed to be a grouping of Russia's friends (well, scratch Ukraine from that category of CIS members).