MOSCOW: A crushing victory for Russia’s ruling party at parliamentary polls has been hailed as a big win for President Vladimir Putin — but for the deputies elected it might just prove a poisoned chalice. With Russia locked in a damaging economic crisis and its cash piles dwindling, the authorities are facing a balancing act — juggling the need to slash spending against keeping Putin’s popularity high ahead of presidential elections set for 2018. Eventually, analysts agree, the country will need to carry out tough reforms — potentially increasing the age of retirement, cutting back on job security and raising taxes. But for now there is little doubt which way the wind is blowing — ensuring Putin gains a fourth term is the priority and any radical changes are on ice until then. “Changes are definitely coming. They will be unpopular and controversial but they are now inevitable as the country can no longer afford not to make these changes,” said economist Chris Weafer of Macro Advisory told Agence-France Presse.