MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin's approval rating has not dipped below 80 percent in years.
And yet police detained more than 1,000 people in Moscow on Sunday during an unexpected surge of street protests that spanned 82 Russian cities — with demonstrators carrying sneakers, rubber ducks and painting their faces green.
So what caused this mass dissent in Putin's Russia?
The protests follow allegations against Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that stem from a high-profile expose published earlier this month by opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
His report alleged that one of Medvedev’s estates features a duck house built in the middle of a pond.
It also painted the prime minister as a compulsive online shopper, ordering 73 T-shirts and 20 pairs of sneakers in just three months.
The demonstrators noted this alleged opulence by carrying ducks and sneakers during Sunday's marches.
Some also painted their faces green in solidarity with Navalny, after unidentified attackers threw green antiseptic at him last week. The substance takes days to wash off and Navalny has been sporting a green face for some time.
But what will all this mean for Putin's government, an administration opponents accuse of being anti-democratic kleptocracy built on corruption and the silencing of dissenters? Here are seven key questions answered.
Demonstrators gathered in dozens of cities to protest against alleged corruption by Medvedev, who was once president of Russia and remains a close ally of Putin.
The liberal radio station Echo of Moscow estimated that 60,000 turned out across the country, with 10,000 apiece in Moscow and St. Petersburg alone. The bulk of the attendees were teens and people aged in their early 20s.
Authorities said the rallies were not authorized in many cities, including Moscow. The protesters, citing their constitutional rights and led by Navalny, marched anyway.
Riot police intervened in several cities, most notably in Moscow, where witnesses and media crews documented a brutal crackdown on what was largely a peaceful protest.
Officers used tear gas and physically beat protesters, including women and younger teenagers.
Pictures also showed some of the demonstrators being dragged away across asphalt.
The 40-year-old has been Russia's most successful opposition politician of the past decade.
In a country accused of industrial levels of corruption among officials, Navalny has made a name for himself with a series of scathing investigations.
He is currently mounting a bid for the presidential elections in March 2018, though the government insists he is not allowed to run because he has been found guilty in several criminal cases, including embezzlement.
Navalny says these charges have been fabricated to deny him a slot on the ballot.
In 2013, after one of the embezzlement charges was brought, the White House said it was "deeply disappointed and concerned" by the "politically motivated" ruling.
"Navalny's harsh prison sentence is the latest example of a disturbing trend aimed at suppressing dissent in civil society in Russia," then-White House spokesman Jay Carney told a news briefing.
Kremlin spokesman Peskov promptly rejected those demands Monday.
But America's verbal intervention will likely only harm the protest, allowing the Kremlin to paint the protesters as naïve kids incited by Washington, according to Nikolai Petrov, an expert on Russian politics with the prestigious Higher School of Economics in Moscow.
However, this does not solve the underlying problems that brought people to the streets.
"The protest on weekend showed that the people still care about politics and are finding ways to channel discontent," Petrov said. "The Kremlin's tactics of simply ignoring corruption scandals is not working anymore."
Alexey Eremenko is a producer in NBC News’ Moscow bureau. He previously worked at Russia's sole English-language daily The Moscow Times and on the English desk of the RIA Novosti newswire. His main beats included politics, space and environment, and he has reported from Afghanistan, Mali, Iran and across Russia.