Vladimir Putin: road to presidency
- Born 7 October 1952 in Leningrad (now St Petersburg)
- Studies law and joins KGB after university
- Serves as a spy in communist East Germany – some ex-KGB comrades later get top state posts in Putin era
- 1990s – top aide to St Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who previously taught him law
- Enters Boris Yeltsin’s Kremlin in 1997, made chief of Federal Security Service (the FSB – main successor of the KGB), then prime minister
- New Year’s Eve, 1999 – Yeltsin quits and names him acting president
- Easily wins presidential election in March 2000
- Wins a second term in 2004
- Is barred from running for a third successive term by the Russian constitution, but instead becomes prime minister
- Wins a third presidential term in 2012
- Re-elected for six years in 2018
His swift military interventions in both Ukraine, annexing Crimea in March 2014, and Syria, bombing anti-government rebels in a move that bolstered Syrian government forces, stunned many observers.
Mr. Putin has made no secret of his determination to reassert Russian power after years of perceived humiliation by the US and its Nato allies.
He has been in power since 2000 – the longest-serving Kremlin leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who died in 1953. Mr Putin was re-elected for six years in 2018.
A controversial national vote on constitutional reforms has given him the opportunity to stay in power beyond his current fourth term, which ends in 2024. He could remain in the Kremlin until 2036.
Independent monitoring group Golos called it “a PR exercise” with many violations.
Critics see in Mr. Putin traits from the Soviet era that shaped his world view. He was a KGB spy before his meteoric rise in the chaos of the USSR’s collapse. Many of his close aides and friends have, or had, secret service connections.
He has restored Soviet-style pageantry for military parades, and Stalin portraits, once banned, have reappeared.
Russia’s widely exported Covid vaccine is called Sputnik V, after the Soviet Sputnik satellite that stunned the West back in 1957.
Mr. Putin famously described the USSR’s collapse as “the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] Century”. He bitterly resents Nato’s expansion up to Russia’s borders.
The new build-up of Russian troops around Ukraine – described by Nato as the biggest since 2014 – has rekindled Western suspicion of Mr. Putin. Relations are now as frosty as they were in the Cold War.
US President Joe Biden described Mr. Putin as a “killer” – shortly before imposing a new round of sanctions on Russia, for alleged meddling in last year’s US presidential election, large-scale cyber hacking and bullying of Ukraine.
The US sanctions in April 2021 targeted 32 Russian entities and officials, adding to an already long list under Western sanctions. And the US expelled 10 Russian diplomats.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the Western charges of election interference and hacking.