The USSR was no where near as powerful as the USSR that was presented via propaganda (from both sides). I would argue that Russia has much of Europe in a tighter noose now via natural gas exports than they did during Soviet days. Many of the gas lines also run through Ukraine by necessity, which is probably what this is really about as opposed to any feigned concern for Russian speakers in Crimea. It is true that Russia doesn't have as many satellites in its sway as it once did, but that's also largely to do with the evolution of the EEC to the EU as well as US and British pushes to get former Soviet states into NATO. However, while Russia doesn't have the political sway that it once did, that doesn't mean that regaining as much of that sway as possible isn't a motivator for Putin.
Regaining degraded national prestige and empire has been a motivating factor for both Hard and Soft dictators throughout history. Not to Godwin this, but the precursory actions in WWII involved annexation of German-speaking areas that were lost to the German Empire after WW1. Likewise, Mussolini laid claim to much of the non-European territories formerly held by the Roman Empire (There is a reason why he adopted the fasces and why man hole covers in Italy are stamped SPQR these days). I believe that it is short sighted to say that because Russia does not have the influence that it once did that Putin will not try and gain as much of it back as possible.
The major difference is that the USSR was an Ideology State, much like the United States is. It was meant to be the shining beacon for radical, revolutionary socialism and communism and as such enjoyed the support of left-wing workers' groups, academics and politicians around the world, whom they also supported in turn. The Russian Federation is a nation state based on the historical territory of a specific set of ethnic groups bound together by history, blood and language. It's much more like South Korea in that way, and that lack of ideological status is what will keep them from regaining Soviet-era sphere of influence. Beyond money, it isn't like anyone will be driven to spy for Russia these days who isn't a Russian. There are no Reds lurking in the halls of power looking for juicy secrets to pass to their ideological brothers in arms.
With regards to your initial points, I'll accept my overstatement on Ukrainian deaths. I had that number stuck in my head for a long time. I may have been confusing it with similar Chinese issues (Communism tends to kill large numbers of people via stupidity as well as malice). However, I don't think that Yeltsin stating that he chose Putin to be his successor can necessarily be taken at face value. If a stone-cold killer had one over on you, what would you do? The fishiness comes from the resignation as opposed to a coupe. A coupe can be attributed outright. The fact that Yeltsin resigned, put a former intelligence officer with ties to the legal and illegal oligarchy (many of whom were also former KGB officers who leveraged those positions for economic gain after the fall of the Soviet Union), who then was able to play a shell game of power to where he has been either President or Prime Minister since 1999, smacks of strong-arming to me. However, that is supposition. I'm not in possession of any intelligence on the matter that hasn't already been made public.
However, for the sake of comparison, since Putin assumed control of the Kremlin, the United States has been through 4 Speakers of the House (Gingrich, Hastert, Pelosi, Boehner) and 3 Presidents (Clinton, Bush, Obama). Obama will be out of office in 2016, but I am willing to bet that Putin will be around one way or another for some time to come. As the swap to Prime Minister showed, he is only limited by the conservativeness of his terms, not the number.