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Vladimir Putin

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This name uses Eastern Slavic naming customs; the patronymic is Vladimirovich and the family name is Putin.
Vladimir Putin
Владимир Путин
Putin with flag of Russia.jpg
Putin in March 2015
2nd and 4th President of Russia
Assumed office
7 May 2012
Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov
Dmitry Medvedev
Preceded by Dmitry Medvedev
In office
7 May 2000 – 7 May 2008
Acting: 31 December 1999 – 7 May 2000
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov
Mikhail Fradkov
Viktor Zubkov
Preceded by Boris Yeltsin
Succeeded by Dmitry Medvedev
Prime Minister of Russia
In office
8 May 2008 – 7 May 2012
President Dmitry Medvedev
Deputy Igor Shuvalov
Preceded by Viktor Zubkov
Succeeded by Dmitry Medvedev
In office
9 August 1999 – 7 May 2000
Acting: 9 August 1999 – 16 August 1999
President Boris Yeltsin
Deputy Viktor Khristenko
Mikhail Kasyanov
Preceded by Sergei Stepashin
Succeeded by Mikhail Kasyanov
Leader of United Russia
In office
1 January 2008 – 30 May 2012
Preceded by Boris Gryzlov
Succeeded by Dmitry Medvedev
Secretary of the Security Council
In office
9 March 1999 – 9 August 1999
President Boris Yeltsin
Preceded by Nikolay Bordyuzha
Succeeded by Sergei Ivanov
Director of the Federal Security Service
In office
25 July 1998 – 29 March 1999
President Boris Yeltsin
Preceded by Nikolay Kovalyov
Succeeded by Nikolai Patrushev
Chairman of the couincil of ministers of the Union State
In office
8 may 2008 – 7 may 2012
Preceded by Viktor Zubkov
Succeeded by Dmitry Medvedev
Personal details
Born Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
(1952-10-07) 7 October 1952 (age 63)
Leningrad, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
(modern Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation)
Nationality Russian
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1975–91)
Our Home-Russia (1995–99)
Unity (1999–2001)
Independent (1991–95; 2001–08)
United Russia (2008–present)
Other political
affiliations
People's Front (2011–present)
Spouse(s) Lyudmila Shkrebneva (m. 1983; div. 2014)
Residence Kremlin Senate, Moscow
Alma mater Leningrad State University
Religion Russian Orthodoxy
Awards =Order of Honor of the Russian Federation Order of Honour
Signature
Website Official website
Military service
Allegiance  Soviet Union
Service/branch KGB
Years of service 1975–1991
Rank CCCP air-force Rank podpolkovnik infobox.svg Lieutenant colonel

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, (/ˈptɪn/; Russian: Влади́мир Влади́мирович Пу́тин; IPA: [vlɐˈdʲimʲɪr vlɐˈdʲimʲɪrəvʲɪtɕ ˈputʲɪn], born 7 October 1952) is a Russian politician, and is the current President of the Russian Federation.[1][2]

Putin has been the President of Russia since 7 May 2012. Putin was Prime Minister from 1999 to 2000, President from 2000 to 2008, and again Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012.[3] During his second term as Prime Minister, he was the Chairman of the United Russia Party, the ruling party.[1]

Putin studied German at Saint Petersburg High School 281, and speaks fluent German.[4][5] Putin studied law at the Saint Petersburg State University in 1970, and graduated in 1975.[6]

Putin was a KGB foreign intelligence officer for 16 years, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before retiring in 1991 to enter politics in his native Saint Petersburg. He moved to Moscow in 1996 and joined President Boris Yeltsin's administration, rising quickly through the ranks and becoming Acting President on 31 December 1999, when Yeltsin resigned. Putin won the subsequent 2000 presidential election by a 52% to 30% margin, thus avoiding a runoff with his Communist Party opponent, Gennady Zyuganov.[7] He was reelected President in 2004 with 72% of the vote.

Because of constitutionally mandated term limits, Putin was ineligible to run for a third consecutive presidential term in 2008. The 2008 presidential election was won by Dmitry Medvedev, who appointed Putin Prime Minister, beginning a period of so-called "tandemocracy".[8] In September 2011, after presidential terms were extended from four to six years,[9] Putin announced he would seek a third term as president. He won the March 2012 presidential election with 64% of the vote, a result which aligned with pre-election polling.[10]

During Putin's first presidency, the Russian economy grew for eight straight years, and GDP measured in purchasing power increased 72%.[11][12][13][14][15] The growth was a result of the 2000s commodities boom, high oil prices, and prudent economic and fiscal policies.[16][17] The economy began to experience difficulties with the arrival of the global economic crisis of 2008-2009,[18] falling oil prices, Western sanctions imposed at the beginning of 2014 after Russia's annexation of Crimea, and military intervention in Eastern Ukraine, with GDP shrinking by 3.7% in 2015.[11][16][17][19][20][21]

Putin has enjoyed very high domestic and foreign approval ratings throughout his career. In 2007, he was Time Magazine's Person of the Year.[22][23] In 2015, he was designated #1 on the Time Magazine's Most Influential People List.[24] In 2013, 2014, and 2015, he was designated #1 on the Forbes List of The World's Most Powerful People.[25]

Early life and education

Parents, Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin and Maria Ivanovna Shelomova

Putin was born on 7 October 1952, in Leningrad, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, Soviet Union (modern Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation).[26] Putin's parents were Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin (1911–1999) and Maria Ivanovna Putina (née Shelomova; 1911–1998). Two brothers, Viktor and Albert, had been born in the mid-1930s. Albert died in infancy, and Viktor died of diphtheria during the Siege of Leningrad in World War II.[27]

Putin's mother was a factory worker, and his father was a conscript in the Soviet Navy, serving in the submarine fleet in the early 1930s. Early in World War II, Putin's father served in the destruction battalion of the NKVD.[28][29][30] Later, Putin's father was transferred to the regular army and was severely wounded in 1942.[31]

On 1 September 1960, Putin started at School No. 193 at Baskov Lane, near his home. Putin was one of a few in the class of approximately 45 pupils who was not yet a member of the Pioneers.

At 12 years old, Putin began to practice sambo and judo. Putin wished to emulate the intelligence officer characters played on the Soviet screen.[32]

Putin studied German at Saint Petersburg High School 281, and speaks fluent German.[4][33]

Putin studied law at the Saint Petersburg State University in 1970, and graduated in 1975.[6] Putin's thesis was on "The Most Favored Nation Trading Principle in International Law".[34] While there, Putin was required to join the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and remained a member until December 1991.[35] Putin met Anatoly Sobchak, an Assistant Professor who taught Business Law (khozyaystvennoye pravo), and was influential in Putin's career.[36]

KGB career

Putin in KGB uniform

In 1975, Putin joined the KGB, and trained at the 401st KGB school in Okhta, Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg). After school, Putin worked in the Second Chief Directorate (counter-intelligence), before he was transferred to the First Chief Directorate, where he monitored foreigners and consular officials in Leningrad.[37][38]

From 1985 to 1990, Putin served in Dresden, East Germany,[39] using a cover identity as a translator.[40]

According to Putin's official biography, during the Fall of the Berlin Wall that began on 9 November 1989, he burned KGB files to prevent demonstrators from obtaining them.[41]

After the collapse of the Communist East German government, Putin returned to Leningrad, where in June 1991, he worked with the International Affairs section of Leningrad State University, reporting to Vice-Rector Yuriy Molchanov.[38] There, Putin looked for new KGB recruits, watched the student body, and renewed his friendship with his former professor, Anatoly Sobchak, the Mayor of Leningrad.[42]

Putin resigned with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on 20 August 1991,[42] on the second day of the KGB-supported abortive putsch against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.[43] Putin said: "As soon as the coup began, I immediately decided which side I was on", although he also noted that the choice was hard because he had spent the best part of his life with "the organs".[44] In 1999, Putin described Communism as "a blind alley, far away from the mainstream of civilization".[45]

Political career

Saint Petersburg administration (1990–1996)

In May 1990, Putin was appointed as an advisor on international affairs to Mayor Sobchak. Then, on 28 June 1991, he became head of the Committee for External Relations of the Saint Petersburg Mayor's Office, with responsibility for promoting international relations and foreign investments[46] and registering business ventures.

Within a year, Putin was investigated by the city legislative council led by Marina Salye. It was concluded that he had understated prices and permitted the export of metals valued at $93 million in exchange for foreign food aid that never arrived.[47][48] Despite the investigators' recommendation that Putin be fired, Putin remained head of the Committee for External Relations until 1996.[49][50] From 1994 to 1996, he held several other political and governmental positions in Saint Petersburg.[51]

In March 1994, Putin was appointed as First Deputy Chairman of the Government of Saint Petersburg. In May 1995, he organized the Saint Petersburg branch of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia political party, the liberal party of power founded by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. During the summer and autumn of 1995, he managed the legislative election campaign for that party and from 1995 through June 1997 he was leader of its Saint Petersburg branch.[51]

Early Moscow career (1996–1999)

Putin as FSB director, 1 January 1998

In 1996, Sobchak lost his bid for reelection in Saint Petersburg. Putin was called to Moscow and in June 1996 became a Deputy Chief of the Presidential Property Management Department (other languages) headed by Pavel Borodin. He occupied this position until March 1997. During his tenure Putin was responsible for the foreign property of the state and organized transfer of the former assets of the Soviet Union and Communist Party to the Russian Federation.[36]

On 26 March 1997, President Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin deputy chief of Presidential Staff, which he remained until May 1998, and chief of the Main Control Directorate of the Presidential Property Management Department (until June 1998). His predecessor on this position was Alexei Kudrin and the successor was Nikolai Patrushev, both future prominent politicians and Putin's associates.[36]

On 27 June 1997, at the Saint Petersburg Mining Institute, guided by rector Vladimir Litvinenko, Putin defended his Candidate of Science dissertation in economics, titled "The Strategic Planning of Regional Resources Under the Formation of Market Relations".[52] This exemplified the custom in Russia for a rising young official to write a scholarly work in midcareer.[53] When Putin later became president, the dissertation became a target of plagiarism accusations by fellows at the Brookings Institution; although the dissertation was referenced,[54][55] the Brookings fellows asserted it constituted plagiarism albeit perhaps unintentional.[54] The dissertation committee denied the accusations.[55][56]

On 25 May 1998, Putin was appointed First Deputy Chief of Presidential Staff for regions, replacing Viktoriya Mitina; and, on 15 July, was appointed Head of the Commission for the preparation of agreements on the delimitation of power of regions and the federal center attached to the President, replacing Sergey Shakhray. After Putin's appointment, the commission completed no such agreements, although during Shakhray's term as the Head of the Commission there were 46 agreements signed.[57] Later, after becoming president, Putin canceled all those agreements.[36]

First premiership (1999)

On 9 August 1999, Vladimir Putin was appointed one of three First Deputy Prime Ministers, and later on that day was appointed acting Prime Minister of the Government of the Russian Federation by President Yeltsin.[58] Yeltsin also announced that he wanted to see Putin as his successor. Still later on that same day, Putin agreed to run for the presidency.[59]

On 16 August, the State Duma approved his appointment as Prime Minister with 233 votes in favour (vs. 84 against, 17 abstained),[60] while a simple majority of 226 was required, making him Russia's fifth PM in fewer than eighteen months. On his appointment, few expected Putin, virtually unknown to the general public, to last any longer than his predecessors. He was initially regarded as a Yeltsin loyalist; like other prime ministers of Boris Yeltsin, Putin did not choose ministers himself, his cabinet being determined by the presidential administration.[61]

Yeltsin's main opponents and would-be successors were already campaigning to replace the ailing president, and they fought hard to prevent Putin's emergence as a potential successor. Putin's law-and-order image and his unrelenting approach to the Second Chechen War, soon combined to raise Putin's popularity and allowed him to overtake all rivals.

While not formally associated with any party, Putin pledged his support to the newly formed Unity Party,[62] which won the second largest percentage of the popular vote (23.3%) in the December 1999 Duma elections, and in turn he was supported by it.

Acting presidency (1999–2000)

On 31 December 1999, Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned and, according to the Constitution of Russia, Putin became Acting President of the Russian Federation. On assuming this role, Putin went on a previously scheduled visit to Russian troops in Chechnya.[63]

The first Presidential Decree that Putin signed, on 31 December 1999, was titled "On guarantees for former president of the Russian Federation and members of his family".[64][65] This ensured that "corruption charges against the outgoing President and his relatives" would not be pursued.[66] This was most notably targeted at Mabetex bribery case in which Yeltsin's family members were involved. On 30 August 2000 a criminal investigation (number 18/238278-95) was dropped in which Putin himself was one of suspects[67][68] as a member of the Saint Petersburg city government. On 30 December 2000 yet another case against the prosecutor general was dropped "for lack of evidence", in spite of thousands of documents passed by Swiss prosecution.[69] Later, on 12 February 2001, Putin signed a similar federal law which replaced the decree of 1999. The case of Putin's alleged corruption in metal exports from 1992 was brought back by Marina Salye, but she was silenced and forced to leave St Petersburg.[70]

While his opponents had been preparing for an election in June 2000, Yeltsin's resignation resulted in the Presidential elections being held within three months, on 26 March 2000; Putin won in the first round with 53% of the vote.[71]

First presidential term (2000–2004)

Taking presidential oath beside Yeltsin, May 2000

The inauguration of President Vladimir Putin occurred on 7 May 2000. Putin appointed the Minister of Finance, Mikhail Kasyanov, as the Prime Minister.

The first major challenge to Putin's popularity came in August 2000, when he was criticized for the alleged mishandling of the Kursk submarine disaster.[72] That criticism was largely because it was several days before Putin returned from vacation, and several more before he visited the scene.[72]

Between 2000 and 2004, Putin set about reconstruction of the impoverished condition of the country, apparently winning a power-struggle with the Russian oligarchs, reaching a 'grand-bargain' with them. This bargain allowed the oligarchs to maintain most of their powers, in exchange for their explicit support for – and alignment with – Putin's government.[73][74] A new group of business magnates emerged, including Gennady Timchenko, Vladimir Yakunin, Yury Kovalchuk, Sergey Chemezov, with close personal ties to Putin.

A few months before elections, Putin fired Prime Minister Kasyanov's cabinet, and appointed Mikhail Fradkov to his place. Sergey Ivanov became the first civilian in Russia to be appointed to the Defense Minister position.

In 2003, a referendum was held in Chechnya, adopting a new constitution which declares that the Republic of Chechnya is a part of Russia; on the other hand, the region did acquire autonomy.[75] Chechnya has been gradually stabilized with the establishment of the Parliamentary elections and a Regional Government.[76][77]

Throughout the war, Russia severely disabled the Chechen rebel movement; however, sporadic attacks by rebels continued to occur throughout the northern Caucasus.[78]

Second presidential term (2004–2008)

Putin with Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel in March 2008

On 14 March 2004, Putin was elected to the presidency for a second term, receiving 71% of the vote.[71] The Beslan school hostage crisis took place in September 2004, in which hundreds died. Many in the Russian press and in the international media warned that the death of 130 hostages in the special forces' rescue operation during the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis would severely damage President Putin's popularity. However, shortly after the siege had ended, the Russian president enjoyed record public approval ratings – 83% of Russians declared themselves satisfied with Putin and his handling of the siege.[79]

In 2005, the National Priority Projects were launched to improve Russia's health care, education, housing and agriculture.[80][81]

The continued criminal prosecution of Russia's then richest man, President of YUKOS company Mikhail Khodorkovsky, for fraud and tax evasion was seen by the international press as a retaliation for Khodorkovsky's donations to both liberal and communist opponents of the Kremlin.[citation needed] The government said that Khodorkovsky was "corrupting" a large segment of the Duma to prevent changes to the tax code changes.[citation needed] Khodorkovsky was arrested, Yukos was bankrupted and the company's assets were auctioned at below-market value, with the largest share acquired by the state company Rosneft.[82] The fate of Yukos was seen as a sign of a broader shift of Russia towards a system of state capitalism.[83][84] This was underscored in July 2014 when shareholders of Yukos were awarded $50 billion in compensation by the Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague.[85]

On 7 October 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who exposed corruption in the Russian army and its conduct in Chechnya, was shot in the lobby of her apartment building, on Putin's birthday. The death of Politkovskaya triggered international criticism, with accusations that Putin has failed to protect the country's new independent media.[86][87] Putin himself said that her death caused the government more problems than her writings.[88]

In 2007, "Dissenters' Marches" were organized by the opposition group The Other Russia,[89] led by former chess champion Garry Kasparov and national-Bolshevist leader Eduard Limonov. Following prior warnings, demonstrations in several Russian cities were met by police action, which included interfering with the travel of the protesters and the arrests of as many as 150 people who attempted to break through police lines.[90]

On 12 September 2007, Putin dissolved the government upon the request of Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. Fradkov commented that it was to give the President a "free hand" in the run-up to the parliamentary election. Viktor Zubkov was appointed the new prime minister.[91]

In December 2007, United Russia won 64.24% of the popular vote in their run for State Duma according to election preliminary results.[92] United Russia's victory in December 2007 elections was seen by many as an indication of strong popular support of the then Russian leadership and its policies.[93][94]

Second premiership (2008–2012)

Putin was barred from a third term by the Constitution. First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was elected his successor. In a power-switching operation on 8 May 2008, only a day after handing the presidency to Medvedev, Putin was appointed Prime Minister of Russia, maintaining his political dominance.[95]

Vladimir Putin with Dmitry Medvedev, March 2008

Putin has said that overcoming the consequences of the world economic crisis was one of the two main achievements of his second Premiership.[81] The other was the stabilizing the size of Russia's population between 2008–2011 following a long period of demographic collapse that began in the 1990s.[81]

At the United Russia Congress in Moscow on 24 September 2011, Medvedev officially proposed that Putin stand for the Presidency in 2012, an offer Putin accepted. Given United Russia's near-total dominance of Russian politics, many observers believed that Putin was assured of a third term. The move was expected to see Medvedev stand on the United Russia ticket in the parliamentary elections in December, with a goal of becoming Prime Minister at the end of his presidential term.[96]

After the parliamentary elections on 4 December 2011, tens of thousands Russians engaged in protests against alleged electoral fraud, the largest protests in Putin's time. Protesters criticized Putin and United Russia and demanded annulment of the election results.[97] Those protests sparked the fear of a colour revolution in society.[98][99][100] Putin organized a number of paramilitary groups loyal to himself and to the United Russia party in the period between 2005 and 2012.[101]

Third presidential term (2012–present)

On 4 March 2012, Putin won the 2012 Russian presidential elections in the first round, with 63.6% of the vote, despite widespread accusations of vote-rigging,[71][102][103] Opposition groups accused Putin and the United Russia party of fraud.[104][105] While efforts to make the elections transparent were publicized, including the usage of webcams in polling stations, the vote was criticized by the Russian opposition and by international observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe for procedural irregularities.[106]

Anti-Putin protesters march in Moscow, 4 February 2012

Anti-Putin protests took place during and directly after the presidential campaign. The most notorious protest was the Pussy Riot performance on 21 February, and subsequent trial.[107] An estimated 8,000–20,000 protesters gathered in Moscow on 6 May,[108][109] when eighty people were injured in confrontations with police,[110] and 450 were arrested, with another 120 arrests taking place the following day.[111] A counter-protest of Putin supporters occurred which culminated into a gathering of an estimated 130,000 supporters at the Luzhniki Stadium, Russia's largest stadium. Some of the attendees stated that they had been paid to come, were forced to come by their employers, or were misled into believing that they were going to attend a folk festival instead.[112][113][114][115][116] The rally is considered to be the largest in support of Putin to date.[117]

Putin's presidency was inaugurated in the Kremlin on 7 May 2012.[118] On his first day as President, Putin issued 14 Presidential decrees, which are sometimes called the "May Decrees" by the media, including a lengthy one stating wide-ranging goals for the Russian economy. Other decrees concerned education, housing, skilled labor training, relations with the European Union, the defense industry, inter-ethnic relations, and other policy areas dealt with in Putin's program articles issued during the presidential campaign.[119][120]

In 2012 and 2013, Putin and the United Russia party backed stricter legislation against the LGBT community, in Saint Petersburg, Archangelsk and Novosibirsk; a law against "homosexual propaganda" (which prohibits such symbols as the rainbow flag as well as published works containing homosexual content) was adopted by the State Duma in June 2013.[121][122][123][124][125] Responding to international concerns about Russia's legislation, Putin asked critics to note that the law was a "ban on the propaganda of pedophilia and homosexuality" and he stated that homosexual visitors to the 2014 Winter Olympics should "leave the children in peace" but denied there was any "professional, career or social discrimination" against homosexuals in Russia.[126]

In June 2013, Putin attended a televised rally of the All-Russia People's Front where he was elected head of the movement,[127] which was set up in 2011.[128] According to journalist Steve Rosenberg, the movement is intended to "reconnect the Kremlin to the Russian people" and one day, if necessary, replace the increasingly unpopular United Russia party that currently backs Putin.[129]

Intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea

Putin greets local residents during a visit to the Crimean city of Sevastopol on 9 May, 2014, after the Russian annexation

In the wake of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, Putin ordered Russian troops to seize Crimea from Ukraine. By 2 March, Russian troops had complete control over Crimea.[130][131][132] Then, on 16 March, a referendum on Crimean status was held in which, according to official results, a majority of 93 percent of voters voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia; the referendum was regarded as illegitimate by most of the international community because of the events surrounding it[133] including the plebiscite being held while the peninsula was occupied by Russian soldiers.[134] The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People called for a boycott of the referendum.[135][136] Thirteen members of the United Nations Security Council voted in favor of a resolution declaring the referendum invalid, but Russia vetoed it and China abstained.[137][138] A United Nations General Assembly resolution was later adopted, by a vote of 100 in favor vs. 11 against with 58 abstentions, which declared the referendum invalid and affirmed Ukraine's territorial integrity.[133] As a result, several countries imposed sanctions on Russia; more followed after pro-Russian unrest spread to the south and east of Ukraine and Russia's subsequent military intervention.[139][140] The economic development of Russia experienced a significant setback due to the sanctions and the concurrent fall in the world price of oil. The IMF has estimated that about half of the decline in GDP in 2015 was due to sanctions and Russia's ban on imports in response.[141] Although Putin at the time stated that no Russian troops were active in Crimea but only "local forces of self defence" on 17 April 2014 he stated "Of course our troops stood behind Crimea's self-defence forces".[142]

Putin in talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, 17 October 2014

Putin outlined his Crimean views on 18 March in his "Crimean speech" in which he said that the ousting of Yanukovych was a coup.[143] Also on 18 March Putin and the new leadership of Crimea signed a bill that led to the annexation of Crimea by Russia.[144]

Following the Crimean referendum unrest increased in eastern Ukraine apart from Crimea.[145] In a reference to 25 May 2014 presidential elections in Ukraine, Putin said that the Ukrainian elections were a step in the right direction.[146][147] The same day he also expressed that the pro-Russian separatists that had self-proclaimed the Donetsk People's Republic and Lugansk People's Republic should wait to hold their 11 May 2014 referendum on independence "in order to create proper conditions for this dialogue",[148] but the Russian backed separatists held the referendum anyway on 11 May 2014, claiming that nearly 90% of voter favoured independence from Ukraine.[145][149]

On 26 August 2014 Putin met with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko in Minsk where he expressed a willingness to discuss the situation. Poroshenko responded by asking that Russia halt supplying arms to the Russian backed separatist fighters. He said his country wanted a political compromise and promised the interests of Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine would be respected.[150]

In a mid-November ARD interview Putin said Russia would not allow a military defeat of the pro-Russian side in the War in Donbass.[151] Putin also once again called the Euromaidan Revolution a political coup and claimed that by supporting President Poroshenko and his Yatsenyuk Government western governments were supporting Russophobes.[151] In the interview Putin again admitted that during the 2014 Crimean crisis “Our armed forces blocked literally the Ukrainian forces located in Crimea, but it was not in attempt to force anyone to vote, it’s impossible to do so. It was done in order to prevent the bloodshed”.[151]

In his annual speech on 4 December 2014 Putin stated that the March 2014 annexation of Crimean was a "historic event" that would not be reversed because Crimea is "Russia's spiritual ground".[152]

2015 Russian military intervention in Syria

In September 2015, President Putin authorized Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War that began on 30 September 2015, following a formal request by the Syrian government for military help against rebel and jihadist groups.[153]

The Russian military activities consisted of air strikes, cruise missile strikes and the use of front line advisors against militant groups opposed to the Syrian government, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda in the Levant) and the Army of Conquest.[154][155] After Putin′s announcement on 14 March 2016 that the mission he had set for the Russian military in Syria had been ″largely accomplished" and ordered the withdrawal of the "main part" of the Russian forces from Syria,[156] Russian forces deployed in Syria continued to actively operate in support of the Syrian government.[157]

Domestic policies

Putin's domestic policies, especially early in his first presidency, were aimed at creating a vertical power structure. On 13 May 2000, he issued a decree putting the 89 federal subjects of Russia into seven administrative federal districts and appointed a presidential envoy responsible for each of those districts (whose official title is Plenipotentiary Representative).[158]

On 13 May 2000, Putin introduced seven federal districts for administrative purposes. On 19 January 2010, the 8th North Caucasian Federal District (shown here in purple) was split from Southern Federal District. On 21 March 2014, the new 9th Crimean Federal District was formed after the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation

According to Stephen White, Russia under the presidency of Putin made it clear that it had no intention of establishing a "second edition" of the American or British political system, but rather a system that was closer to Russia's own traditions and circumstances.[159] Some commentators have described Putin's administration as a "sovereign democracy".[not in citation given][160][161][162]

According to the proponents of that description, the government's actions and policies ought above all to enjoy popular support within Russia itself and not be determined from outside the country.[163][164]

In July 2000, according to a law proposed by Putin and approved by the Federal Assembly of Russia, Putin gained the right to dismiss heads of the 89 federal subjects. In 2004, the direct election of those heads (usually called "governors") by popular vote was replaced with a system whereby they would be nominated by the President and approved or disapproved by regional legislatures.[165][166] This was seen by Putin as a necessary move to stop separatist tendencies and get rid of those governors who were connected with organised crime.[167] This and other government actions effected under Putin's presidency have been criticised by many independent Russian media outlets and Western commentators as anti-democratic.[168][169] In 2012, as proposed by Putin's successor Dmitry Medvedev, the direct election of governors was re-introduced.[170]

During his first term in office, Putin persecuted some of the Yeltsin-era oligarchs, as well as his political opponents, resulting in the exile or imprisonment of such people as Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky; other oligarchs such as Roman Abramovich and Arkady Rotenberg[171]

Putin succeeded in codifying land law and tax law and promulgated new codes on labour, administrative, criminal, commercial and civil procedural law.[172] Under Medvedev's presidency, Putin's government implemented some key reforms in the area of state security, the Russian police reform and the Russian military reform.

Economic, industrial, and energy policies

Russian GDP since the end of the Soviet Union
Historical crude oil prices. Economic growth in Putin's first two terms was fueled by the 2000s commodities boom, including high oil prices[16][17]

Fueled by the 2000s commodities boom including record high oil prices,[16][17] under the Putin administration from 2001 to 2007, the economy made real gains of an average 7% per year,[173] making it the 7th largest economy in the world in purchasing power. In 2007, Russia's GDP exceeded that of Russian SFSR in 1990, having recovered from the 1998 financial crisis and the preceding recession in the 1990s.[14]

During Putin's first eight years in office, industry grew substantially, as did production, construction, real incomes, credit, and the middle class.[12][14][15][174][175] Putin has also been praised for eliminating widespread barter and thus boosting the economy.[176] Inflation remained a problem however.[14]

A fund for oil revenue allowed Russia to repay all of the Soviet Union's debts by 2005.[14] Russia joined the World Trade Organization on 22 August 2012.

Under Putin, Russia is a major exporter of oil and gas to much of Europe

Control over the economy was increased by placing individuals from the intelligence services and the military, in key positions of the Russian economy, including on boards of large companies. In 2005 an industry consolidation programme was launched to bring the main aircraft producing companies under a single umbrella organization, the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). The aim was to optimize production lines and minimise losses.[177] The UAC is one of the so-called national champions and comparable to EADS in Europe.[178]

A programme was started to increase Russia's share of the European energy market by building submerged gas pipelines bypassing Ukraine and other countries which were often seen as non-reliable transit partners by Russia, especially following Russia-Ukraine gas disputes of the late 2000s (decade). Russia also undermined the rival pipeline project Nabucco by buying the Turkmen gas and redirecting it into Russian pipelines.

Russia diversified its export markets by building the Trans-Siberian oil pipeline to the markets of China, Japan and Korea, as well as the Sakhalin–Khabarovsk–Vladivostok gas pipeline in the Russian Far East. Russia has also recently built several major oil and gas refineries, plants and ports. Construction of major hydropower plants, such as the Bureya Dam and the Boguchany Dam, as well as the restoration of the nuclear industry of Russia, with 1 trillion rubles ($42.7 billion) were allocated from the federal budget to nuclear power and industry development before 2015.[179] A large number of nuclear power stations and units are currently being constructed by the state corporation Rosatom in Russia and abroad.

On 21 May 2014, Russia and China signed a $400 billion gas deal

A construction program of floating nuclear power plants will provide power to Russian Arctic coastal cities and gas rigs, starting in 2012.[180][181] The Arctic policy of Russia also includes an offshore oilfield in the Pechora Sea is expected to start producing in early 2012, with the world's first ice-resistant oil platform and first offshore Arctic platform.[182] In August 2011 Rosneft, a Russian government-operated oil company, signed a deal with ExxonMobil for Arctic oil production.[183]

The construction of a pipeline at a cost of $77bn, to be jointly funded by Russia and China, was signed off on by President Putin in Shanghai on 21 May 2014. On completion in 4 to 6 years, the pipeline would deliver natural gas from the state-majority-owned Gazprom to China's state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation for the next 30 years, in a deal worth $400bn.[184]

In 2014, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project named Putin their Person of the Year Award for furthering corruption and organized crime.[185][186]

2014 Financial Crisis and economic downturn

The ongoing financial crisis began in the second half of 2014 when the Russian ruble collapsed due to a decline in the price of oil and international sanctions against Russia. These events in turn led to loss of investor confidence and capital flight.[187]

Russia responded with its own sanctions against the West. Additionally, to compensate for the sanctions, Russia developed closer economic ties with Eastern countries.[citation needed] In October 2014, energy, trade and finance agreements with China worth $25 billion were signed. The following year, a $400 billion 30-year natural gas supply agreement was also signed with China.[188]

Environmental policy

In 2004, President Putin signed the Kyoto Protocol treaty designed to reduce greenhouse gases.[189] However Russia did not face mandatory cuts, because the Kyoto Protocol limits emissions to a percentage increase or decrease from 1990 levels and Russia's greenhouse-gas emissions fell well below the 1990 baseline due to a drop in economic output after the breakup of the Soviet Union.[190]

Putin personally supervises a number of protection programmes for rare and endangered animals in Russia, such as the Amur Tiger, the White Whale, the Polar Bear and the Snow Leopard.[191][192][193][194]

Religious policy

Main article: Religion in Russia
Putin with religious leaders of Russia, 2001

Buddhism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, defined by law as Russia's traditional religions and a part of Russia's historical heritage[195] enjoyed limited state support in the Putin era. The vast construction and restoration of churches, started in the 1990s, continued under Putin, and the state allowed the teaching of religion in schools (parents are provided with a choice for their children to learn the basics of one of the traditional religions or secular ethics). His approach to religious policy has been characterised as one of support for religious freedoms, but also the attempt to unify different religions under the authority of the state.[196] In 2012, Putin was honored in Bethlehem and a street was named after him.[197]

Putin visiting the Tuva Republic, Siberia, 2007

Putin regularly attends the most important services of the Russian Orthodox Church on the main Orthodox Christian holidays. He established a good relationship with Patriarchs of the Russian Church, the late Alexy II of Moscow and the current Kirill of Moscow. As President, he took an active personal part in promoting the Act of Canonical Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, signed 17 May 2007 that restored relations between the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia after the 80-year schism.[198]

Putin and United Russia enjoy high electoral support in the national republics of Russia, in particular in the Muslim-majority republics of Povolzhye and the North Caucasus.

Under Putin, the Hasidic FJCR became increasingly influential within the Jewish community, partly due to the influence of Federation-supporting businessmen mediated through their alliances with Putin, notably Lev Leviev and Roman Abramovich.[199][200] According to the JTA, Putin is popular amongst the Russian Jewish community, who see him as a force for stability. Russia's chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, said Putin "paid great attention to the needs of our community and related to us with a deep respect."[201]

Military development

Putin in the cockpit of a Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber before the flight, August 2005
Aboard battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy during Northern Fleet exercise in 2005

The resumption of long-distance flights of Russia's strategic bombers was followed by the announcement by Russian Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov during his meeting with Putin on 5 December 2007, that 11 ships, including the aircraft carrier Kuznetsov, would take part in the first major navy sortie into the Mediterranean since Soviet times.[202] The sortie was to be backed up by 47 aircraft, including strategic bombers.[203]

While from the early 2000s (decade) Russia started pumping more money into its military and defence industry, it was only in 2008 that the full-scale Russian military reform began, aiming to modernize Russian Armed Forces and making them significantly more effective. The reform was largely carried out by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov during Medvedev's Presidency, under supervision of both Putin, as the Head of Government, and Medvedev, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces.

Key elements of the reform included reducing the armed forces to a strength of one million; reducing the number of officers; centralising officer training from 65 military schools into 10 'systemic' military training centres; creating a professional NCO corps; reducing the size of the central command; introducing more civilian logistics and auxiliary staff; elimination of cadre-strength formations; reorganising the reserves; reorganising the army into a brigade system; reorganising air forces into an air base system instead of regiments.[204]

The number of Russia's military districts was reduced to just 4. The term of draft service was reduced from two years to one, which put an end to the old harassment traditions in Russian army, since all conscripts became very close by draft age. The gradual transition to the majority professional army by the late 2010s was announced, and a large programme of supplying the Armed Forces with new military equipment and ships was started. The Russian Space Forces were replaced on 1 December 2011 with the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces.

In spite of Putin's call for major investments in strategic nuclear weapons, these will fall well below the New START limits due to the retirement of aging systems.[205]

Putin has also sought to increase Russian territorial claims in the Arctic and its military presence here. In August 2007, Russian expedition Arktika 2007, part of research related to the 2001 Russian territorial extension claim, planted a flag on the seabed below the North Pole.[206] Both Russian submarines and troops deployed in the Arctic have been increasing.[207][208]

Human rights policy

According to Human Rights Watch since May 2012, when Vladimir Putin was reelected as president, Russia has enacted many restrictive laws, started inspections of nongovernmental organizations, harassed, intimidated, and imprisoned political activists, and started to restrict critics. The new laws include the so-called “foreign agents” law, which is widely regarded as overbroad by including Russian human rights organizations which receive some international grant funding, the treason law, and the assembly law which penalizes many expressions of dissent.[209][210]

Foreign policy

Relations with the United States, Europe, and NATO

Putin meets with U.S. President Barack Obama in New York City, 29 September 2015

Under Putin, Russia's relationships with NATO and the U.S. have passed through several stages. When he first became President, relations were cautious, but after the 9/11 attacks Putin quickly supported the U.S. in the War on Terror and the opportunity for partnership appeared.[211] However, the U.S. responded by further expansion of NATO to Russia's borders and by unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.[211] From 2003, when Russia did not support the Iraq War and when Putin became ever more distant from the West in his internal and external policies, relations continued to deteriorate. According to Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen, the narrative of the mainstream U.S. media, following that of the White House, became anti-Putin.[211] In an interview with Michael Stürmer, Putin said there were three questions which most concerned Russia and Eastern Europe: namely, the status of Kosovo, the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty and American plans to build missile defence sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, and suggested that all three were linked.[212] His view was that concessions by the West on one of the questions might be met with concessions from Russia on another.[212] In a January 2007 interview, Putin said Russia was in favor of a democratic multipolar world and strengthening the systems of international law.[213]

In February 2007, Putin criticized what he called the United States' monopolistic dominance in global relations, and "almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations". He said the result of it is that "no one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course such a policy stimulates an arms race".[214] This came to be known as the Munich Speech, and former NATO secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called the speech, "disappointing and not helpful."[215] The months following Putin's Munich Speech[214] were marked by tension and a surge in rhetoric on both sides of the Atlantic. Both Russian and American officials, however, denied the idea of a new Cold War.[216] Putin publicly opposed plans for the U.S. missile shield in Europe, and presented President George W. Bush with a counterproposal on 7 June 2007 which was declined.[217] Russia suspended its participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe on 11 December 2007.[218]

Putin opposed Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, warning supporters of that precedent that it would de facto destabilize the whole system of international relations.[219][220][221]

Putin and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at the opening of Russia Day at Expo 2015 in Milan

Putin had friendly relations with former American President George W. Bush, and many European leaders. His "cooler" and "more business-like" relationship with Germany's current Chancellor, Angela Merkel is often attributed to Merkel's upbringing in the former DDR, where Putin was stationed as a KGB agent.[222] Relations were further strained after the 2014-15 Russian military intervention in Ukraine and the Annexation of Crimea.[223] In 2014, Russia was suspended from the G8 group as a result of its annexation of Crimea.[224][225]

In late 2013, Russian-American relations deteriorated further when the United States canceled a summit (for the first time since 1960) after Putin gave asylum to Edward Snowden, who had leaked classified information from the NSA.[226]

In June 2015, Putin told an Italian newspaper that Russia has no intention of attacking NATO.[227]

Relations between Russia and the United Kingdom deteriorated when the United Kingdom granted political asylum to Putin's former patron, oligarch Boris Berezovsky in 2003.[228] This deterioration was intensified by allegations that the British were spying and making secret payments to pro-democracy and human rights groups.[229]

Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko

The end of 2006 brought more strained relations in the wake of the death by polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London.[230][231] In 2007, the crisis in relations continued with expulsion of four Russian envoys over Russia's refusal to extradite former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi to face charges in the alleged murder of Litvinenko.[228] Mirroring the British actions, Russia expelled UK diplomats and took other retaliatory steps.[228]

In 2015–16 the British Government conducted an inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko. Its report was released in January 2016.[232] According to the report, "The FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev and also by President Putin." The report outlined some possible motives for the murder, including Litvinenko's public statements and books about the alleged involvement of the FSB in mass murder, and what was "undoubtedly a personal dimension to the antagonism" between Putin and Litvinenko, led to the murder. The Kremlin dismissed the Inquiry as "a joke" and "whitewash".[233][234]

Relations with South and East Asia

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping at the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade

In 2012, Putin wrote an article in the Hindu newspaper, saying that "The Declaration on Strategic Partnership between India and Russia signed in October 2000 became a truly historic step".[235][236] Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during Putin's 2012 visit to India: "President Putin is a valued friend of India and the original architect of the India-Russia strategic partnership".[237]

Putin's Russia maintains positive relations with other BRIC countries. The country has sought to strengthen ties especially with the People's Republic of China by signing the Treaty of Friendship as well as building the Trans-Siberian oil pipeline geared toward growing Chinese energy needs.[238] The mutual-security cooperation of the two countries and their central Asian neighbours is facilitated by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The announcement made during the SCO summit that Russia resumes on a permanent basis the long-distance patrol flights of its strategic bombers (suspended in 1992)[239][240] in the light of joint Russian-Chinese military exercises, first-ever in history held on Russian territory,[241] made some experts believe that Putin is inclined to set up an anti-NATO bloc or the Asian version of OPEC.[242] When presented with the suggestion that "Western observers are already likening the SCO to a military organisation that would stand in opposition to NATO", Putin answered that "this kind of comparison is inappropriate in both form and substance".[239]

Relations with Middle Eastern and North African countries

On 16 October 2007, Putin visited Iran to participate in the Second Caspian Summit in Tehran,[243][244] where he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.[245][246] This was the first visit of a Soviet or Russian leader[247] to Iran since Joseph Stalin's participation in the Tehran Conference in 1943, and thus marked a significant event in Iran-Russia relations.[248] At a press conference after the summit Putin said that "all our (Caspian) states have the right to develop their peaceful nuclear programmes without any restrictions".[249]

Putin with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, 2014

Subsequently, under Medvedev's presidency, Iran-Russia relations were uneven: Russia did not fulfill the contract of selling to Iran the S-300, one of the most potent anti-aircraft missile systems currently existing. However, Russian specialists completed the construction of Iran and the Middle East's first civilian nuclear power facility, the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, and Russia has continuously opposed the imposition of economic sanctions on Iran by the U.S. and the EU, as well as warning against a military attack on Iran. Putin was quoted as describing Iran as a "partner",[212] though he expressed concerns over the Iranian nuclear programme.[212]

In April 2008, Putin became the first Russian President who visited Libya.[250] Putin condemned the foreign military intervention of Libya, he called UN resolution as "defective and flawed," and added "It allows everything. It resembles medieval calls for crusades."[251][252] Upon the death of Muammar Gaddafi, Putin called it as "planned murder" by the US, saying: "They showed to the whole world how he (Gaddafi) was killed," and "There was blood all over. Is that what they call a democracy?"[253][254]

Putin meets with Red Army veterans in Israel

Regarding Syria, from 2000 to 2010 Russia sold around $1.5 billion worth of arms to that country, making Damascus Moscow's seventh-largest client.[255] During the Syrian civil war, Russia threatened to veto any sanctions against the Syrian government,[256] and continued to supply arms to the regime.

Putin opposed any foreign intervention. In June 2012, in Paris, he rejected the statement of French President Francois Hollande who called on Bashar Al-Assad to step down. Putin echoed the argument of the Assad regime that anti-regime '’militants'’ were responsible for much of the bloodshed. He also talked about previous NATO interventions and their results, and asked "What is happening in Libya, in Iraq? Did they become safer? Where are they heading? Nobody has an answer".[257]

On 11 September 2013, an opinion, written by Putin, was published in the New York Times regarding international events related to the United States, Russia and Syria.[258] Putin subsequently helped to arrange for Syria to disarm itself of chemical weapons.[259] He has subsequently taken an even stronger pro-Assadist stance.[260] Some analysts have summarized Putin as being allied with Shiites and Alawites in the Middle East.[261][262]

Relations with post-Soviet states

A series of so-called color revolutions in the post-Soviet states, namely the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004 and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan in 2005, led to frictions in the relations of those countries with Russia. In December 2004, Putin criticised the Rose and Orange revolutions, saying: "If you have permanent revolutions you risk plunging the post-Soviet space into endless conflict".[263]

Meeting with Mikheil Saakashvili, then-president of Georgia, in 2008

A number of economic disputes erupted between Russia and some neighbours, such as the Russian import ban of Georgian wine. And in some cases, such as the Russia–Ukraine gas disputes, the economic conflicts affected other European countries, for example when a January 2009 gas dispute with Ukraine led state-controlled Russian company Gazprom to halt its deliveries of natural gas to Ukraine,[264] which left a number of European states, to which Ukraine transits Russian gas, with serious shortages of natural gas in January 2009.[264]

The plans of Georgia and Ukraine to become members of NATO have caused some tensions between Russia and those states.[265] In 2010, Ukraine did abandon these plans.[266] Putin allegedly declared at a NATO-Russia summit in 2008 that if Ukraine joined NATO Russia could contend to annex the Ukrainian East and Crimea.[267] At the summit he told US President George W. Bush that "Ukraine is not even a state!" while the following year Putin referred to Ukraine as "Little Russia".[268] Following the 2014 Ukrainian revolution in March 2014, the Russian Federation annexed Crimea.[131][132][269] According to Putin this was done because "Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia".[270] After the Russian annexion of Crimea he said that Ukraine includes "regions of Russia's historic south" and "was created on a whim by the Bolsheviks".[271] He went on to declare that the February 2014 ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had been orchestrated by the West as an attempt to weaken Russia. "Our Western partners have crossed a line. They behaved rudely, irresponsibly and unprofessionally," he said, adding that the people who had come to power in Ukraine were "nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites".[271] In a July 2014 speech midst an armed insurgency in Eastern Ukraine Putin stated he would use Russia's "entire arsenal" and "the right of self defence" to protect Russian speakers outside Russia.[272]

In late August 2014, Putin stated: "People who have their own views on history and the history of our country may argue with me, but it seems to me that the Russian and Ukrainian peoples are practically one people".[273] After making a similar claim late December 2015 he stated: "the Ukrainian culture, as well as Ukrainian literature, surely has a source of its own".[274]

The Eurasian Union with its current members: Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan

In August 2008, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili attempted to restore control over the breakaway South Ossetia. However, the Georgian military was soon defeated in the resulting 2008 South Ossetia War after regular Russian forces entered South Ossetia and then Georgia proper, then also opened a second front in the other Georgian breakaway province of Abkhazia against with Abkhazian forces.[275][276] During this conflict, according to French diplomat Jean-David Levitte, Putin intended to depose the Georgian President and declared: "I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls".[277]

Despite existing or past tensions between Russia and most of the post-Soviet states, Putin has followed the policy of Eurasian integration. Putin endorsed the idea of a Eurasian Union in 2011,[278][279][280][281] The concept was proposed by the President of Kazakhstan in 1994.[282] On 18 November 2011, the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia signed an agreement setting a target of establishing the Eurasian Union by 2015.[283] The Eurasian Union was established on 1 January 2015.[284]

Relations with Australia, Latin America, and others

Putin and his successor Medvedev enjoyed warm relations with the late Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. Much of this has been through the sale of military equipment; since 2005, Venezuela has purchased more than $4 billion worth of arms from Russia.[285] In September 2008, Russia sent Tupolev Tu-160 bombers to Venezuela to carry out training flights.[286] In November 2008, both countries held a joint naval exercise in the Caribbean.[287] Earlier in 2000, Putin had re-established stronger ties with Fidel Castro's Cuba.

BRICS leaders at the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, 15 November 2014

In September 2007, Putin visited Indonesia and in doing so became the first Russian leader to visit the country in more than 50 years.[288] In the same month, Putin also attended the APEC meeting held in Sydney where he met with John Howard, who was the Australian Prime Minister at the time, and signed a uranium trade deal for Australia to sell uranium to Russia. This was the first visit by a Russian president to Australia.[289]

International sporting events

Putin has won international support for sport in Russia.[needs update?] In 2007, he led a successful effort on behalf of Sochi (located along the Black Sea near the border between Georgia and Russia) for the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2014 Winter Paralympics,[290] the first Winter Olympic Games to ever be hosted by Russia. Likewise, in 2008, the city of Kazan won the bid for the 2013 Summer Universiade, and on 2 December 2010 Russia won the right to host the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2018 FIFA World Cup, also for the first time in Russian history. In 2013, Putin stated that gay athletes would not face any discrimination at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.[291]

Public image

Polls and rankings

Putin's approval (blue) and disapproval (red) ratings 1999-2015. Putin reached an all-time high approval rating in June 2015 of 89%.[292]

According to a June 2007 public opinion survey, Putin's approval rating was 81%, the second highest of any leader in the world that year.[293] In January 2013, Putin's approval rating fell to 62%, the lowest figure since 2000 and a ten-point drop over two years.[294] By May 2014, Putin's approval rating had rebounded to 85.9%, a six-year high.[295]

After EU and U.S. sanctions against Russian officials as a result of the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine, Putin's approval rating reached 87 percent, according to a Levada Center survey published on 6 August 2014.[296][297] In February 2015, based on new domestic polling, Putin was ranked the world's most popular politician.[298] In June 2015, Putin's approval rating climbed to 89%, which was an all-time high.[292][299][300]

Observers see Putin's high approval ratings as a consequence of significant improvements in living standards, and Russia's reassertion of itself on the world scene during his presidency.[301][302]

Assessments

Critics state that Putin has moved Russia in an autocratic direction.[303] Putin has been described as a "dictator" by political opponent, Garry Kasparov, as a "bully" and "arrogant" by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and as “self-centered” and "isolationist" by the Dalai Lama.[304][305][306][307][308] Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger writes that the West has demonized Putin.[309]

Many Russians credit Putin for reviving Russia's fortunes.[310] Former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, while acknowledging the flawed democratic procedures and restrictions on media freedom during the Putin presidency, said that Putin had pulled Russia out of chaos at the end of the Yeltsin years, and that Russians "must remember that Putin saved Russia from the beginning of a collapse."[310][311] In 2015, opposition politician, Boris Nemtsov, said that Putin was turning Russia into a "raw materials colony" of China.[312] Chechen Republic head and Putin supporter, Ramzan Kadyrov, states that Putin saved both the Chechen people and Russia.[313]

In 2014, a detailed study of the alleged corruption of Putin and his inner circle – Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? by Karen Dawisha, was published.[314][315]

In 2015, The Economist Magazine's Democracy Index classified Russia as "authoritarian", ranking it 132nd out of 167 countries.[316]

Personal image

Driving an F1 race car, 2010 (see video)

Putin cultivates an outdoor, sporty, tough guy public image, demonstrating his physical prowess and taking part in unusual or dangerous acts, such as extreme sports and interaction with wild animals,[317] part of a public relations approach that, according to Wired, "deliberately cultivates the macho, take-charge superhero image".[318] For example, in 2007, the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda published a huge photograph of a bare-chested Putin vacationing in the Siberian mountains under the headline: "Be Like Putin."[319] Some of the activities have been criticised for being staged.[320][321] Outside of Russia, Putin's macho image has been the subject of parody.[322][323][324]

Notable examples of Putin's macho adventures include:[325] flying military jets,[325] demonstrating his martial art skills,[325] riding horses, rafting, fishing and swimming in a cold Siberian river (doing all that mostly bare-chested),[319][326] descending in a deepwater submersible,[327] tranquilizing tigers with a tranquiliser gun,[319][328] tranquilizing polar bears,[329] riding a motorbike,[325][330] co-piloting a firefighting plane to dump water on a raging fire,[318][325] shooting darts at whales from a crossbow for eco-tracking,[325][331] driving a race car,[325][332] scuba diving at an archaeological site,[320][333] attempting to lead endangered cranes in a motorized hang glider,[334] and catching big fish.[335][336]

There are a large number of songs about Putin.[337] Some of the well-known include: "Go Hard Like Vladimir Putin" by K. King and Beni Maniaci,[338] "VVP" by Tajik singer Tolibjon Kurbankhanov,[339][340] "Our Madhouse is Voting for Putin" by Working Faculty and "A Song About Putin" by the Russian Airborne Troops band.[341] There is also "Putin khuilo!", the song, originally emerged as chants Ukrainian football fans and spread in Ukraine (among supporters Euromaidan), then in other countries.[342][343]

Putin's name and image are widely used in advertisement and product branding.[318] Among the Putin-branded products are Putinka vodka, the PuTin brand of canned food, the Gorbusha Putina caviar and a collection of T-shirts with his image.[344]

Putin also is a subject of Russian jokes and chastushki, such as "[Before Putin] There Was No Orgasm" featured in the comedy film The Day of Elections.[345]

A Russian movie called A Kiss not for Press was premiered in 2008 on DVD. The movie is said to be based on biography of Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila.[346]

Putinisms

Putin has produced a large number of aphorisms and catch-phrases, known as putinisms.[347] Many of them were first made during his annual Q&A conferences, where Putin answered questions from journalists and other people in the studio, as well as from Russians throughout the country, who either phoned in or spoke from studios and outdoor sites across Russia. Putin is known for his often tough and sharp language, often alluding at Russian jokes and folk sayings.[347]

Putin uses sometimes Russian criminal language (fenya), not always correctly.[348]

Personal life

Family

See also: Lyudmila Putina

On 28 July 1983, Putin married Kaliningrad-born Lyudmila Shkrebneva, a student of the Spanish branch of the Philology department of the Leningrad State University, and a former Aeroflot flight attendant, and they lived together in Germany from 1985 to 1990. On 6 June 2013, Putin announced that their marriage was over, and on 1 April 2014, the Kremlin confirmed that the divorce had been finalised.[349][350]

Putin with family in Primorsky Krai, Russian Far East, 2002

Putin and his former wife have two daughters, Mariya Putina (born 28 April 1985 in Leningrad, Soviet Union) and Yekaterina Putina (born 31 August 1986 in Dresden, East Germany).[351]

Personal wealth

See also: Panama papers

Figures released during the legislative election of 2007 put Putin's wealth at approximately 3.7 million rubles (US$150,000) in bank accounts, a private 77.4-square-meter (833 sq ft) apartment in Saint Petersburg, and miscellaneous other assets.[352] Putin's reported 2006 income totalled 2 million rubles (approximately $80,000). In 2012, Putin reported an income of 3.6 million rubles ($113,000).[353][354]

According to Russian opposition politicians and journalists, Putin secretly possesses a multi-billion fortune[355] via successive ownership of stakes in a number of Russian companies.[356][357]

In April 2016, 11 million documents belonging to a Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The name of Vladimir Putin does not appear in any of the records, and Putin denied his involvement with the company.[358] However, various media has reported on three of Putin's associates on the list.[359] According to the Panama Papers leak, close trustees of Putin own offshore companies worth two billion US-Dollar in total.[360] The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung regards the possibility of Putin's family profiting from this money as plausible.[361][362]

According to the paper, the US$2 billion had been "secretly shuffled through banks and shadow companies linked to Putin's associates", and Bank Rossiya, previously identified by the U.S. State Department as being treated by Putin as his personal bank account, had been central in facilitating this. It concludes that "Putin has shown he is willing to take aggressive steps to maintain secrecy and protect [such] communal assets."[363][364] A significant proportion of the money trail leads to Putin's best friend Sergei Roldugin. Although a musician, and in his own words not a businessman, it appears he has accumulated assets valued at $100m, and possibly more. It has been suggested he was picked for the role because of his low profile.[359] There have been speculations that Putin in fact owns the funds,[365] and Roldugin just acted as a proxy. Putin himself denied it,[358][366] and his press-secretary, Dmitry Peskov, claimed the leak was a conspiracy aimed at Putin.[367] Putin himself however described the "Panama Papers" as "reliable".[368]

Residences

Not long after Putin returned from his KGB service in Dresden, East Germany, Putin built a dacha in Solovyovka on the eastern shore of Lake Komsomolskoye on the Karelian Isthmus in Priozersky District of Leningrad Oblast, near St. Petersburg. The dacha had burned down in 1996. Putin built a new one identical to the original and was joined by a group of seven friends who built dachas beside his. In the fall of 1996, the group formally registered their fraternity as a co-operative society, calling it Ozero ("Lake") and turning it into a gated community.[369]

As President and then Prime-Minister, apart from the Moscow Kremlin and the White House, Putin has used numerous official residences throughout the country. In August 2012 Nemtsov listed 20 villas and palaces, nine of which were built during Putin's 12 years in power.[370] Some of the residences include: Gorki-9 near Moscow, Bocharov Ruchey in Sochi, Dolgiye Borody in Novgorod Oblast, Novo-Ogaryovo in Moscow Oblast and Riviera in Sochi.[371] Furthermore, a massive Italianate-style mansion costing an alleged US$1 billion[372] and dubbed "Putin's Palace" is under construction near the Black Sea village of Praskoveevka. The mansion, built on government land and sporting 3 helipads, a private road paid for from state funds and guarded by officials wearing uniforms of the official Kremlin guard service, is said to have been built for Putin's private use[by whom?]. In 2012 Sergei Kolesnikov, a former business associate of Putin's, told the BBC's Newsnight programme, that he had been ordered by deputy prime minister, Igor Sechin, to oversee the building of it.[373]

Pets

Putin has two dogs, Buffy and Yume. Buffy, a Karakachan dog, was given to President Putin in 2010 by the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov.[374] Yume is an Akita Inu and arrived in Moscow in July 2012 as a three-month old puppy. Yume is Akita Prefecture’s gift to show gratitude for Russia’s assistance to Japan after the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami.[375]

Putin's former dog, Konni, a female black Labrador Retriever, was a gift in 2000 from Sergey Shoygu. She died in late 2014.

Religion

Putin and wife Lyudmila in New York City at service for victims of September 11 attacks, 16 November 2001

Putin's mother was a devoted Christian believer who attended the Russian Orthodox Church, and his father was an atheist.[376][377] Though his mother kept no icons at home, she attended church regularly, despite government persecution of her religion at that time. His mother was secretly christened him as a baby, and she regularly took him to services.[31]

According to Putin, his religious awakening began after a serious car crash involving his wife in 1993, and a life-threatening fire that burned down their dacha in August 1996.[377] Shortly before an official visit to Israel, Putin's mother gave him his baptismal cross, telling him to get it blessed. Putin states, "I did as she said and then put the cross around my neck. I have never taken it off since."[31] However, when asked in 2007 whether he believes in God, he responded, "...There are things I believe, which should not in my position, at least, be shared with the public at large for everybody's consumption because that would look like self-advertising or a political striptease."[378] Putin's rumoured confessor is Russian Orthodox Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov.[379]

Sports

Addressing Olympic Committee in Guatemala, 2007, in English. He also speaks German[380] and Swedish.[381]

Putin is frequently seen promoting sports and a healthy way of life among Russians, including promoting skiing, badminton, cycling, and fishing.[382] Putin watches football, and supports FC Zenit Saint Petersburg, from his home city.[383]

Putin began training in sambo at the age of 14, before switching to judo, which he continues to practice.[384] Putin won competitions in both sports in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg). Putin also practises karate.[385]

Putin co-authored a book on his favorite sport, published in Russian as Judo with Vladimir Putin, and in English under the title Judo: History, Theory, Practice (2004).[386]

Honours

Ancestry

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Further reading

External links