Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin born 7 October 1952 is a Russian politician and former intelligence officer serving as President of Russia since 2012, previously holding the position from 2000 until 2008. He was Prime Minister of Russia from 1999 until the beginning of his first presidency in 2000, and again between presidencies from 2008 until 2012. During his first term as Prime Minister, he served as Acting President of Russia due to the resignation of President Boris Yeltsin. During his second term as Prime Minister, he was the chairman of the ruling United Russia party.
Putin was born in Leningrad in the Soviet Union. He studied law at Leningrad State University, graduating in 1975. Putin was a KGB foreign intelligence officer for 16 years, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before resigning in 1991 to enter politics in 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 2000 presidential election by a 53% to 30% margin, thus avoiding a runoff with his Communist Party of the Russian Federation opponent, Gennady Zyuganov. He was reelected president in 2004 with 72% of the vote. During his first presidency, the Russian economy grew for eight straight years, and GDP measured in purchasing power increased by 72%. The growth was a result of the 2000s commodities boom, high oil prices, and prudent economic and fiscal policies. 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 as Prime Minister, the beginning of what some opponents considered to be a period of “tandemocracy”.
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In September 2011, after presidential terms were extended from four to six years, 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. Falling oil prices coupled with international sanctions imposed at the beginning of 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Eastern Ukraine led to GDP shrinking by 3.7% in 2015, though the Russian economy rebounded in 2016 with 0.3% GDP growth and is officially out of the recession. Putin gained 76% of the March 2018 presidential vote and was re-elected for a six-year term that will end in 2024.
Under Putin’s leadership, Russia has scored poorly in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index and experienced democratic backsliding according to both the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index and Freedom House’s Freedom in the World index (including a record low 20/100 rating in the 2017 Freedom in the World report, a rating not given since the time of the Soviet Union). Experts no longer consider Russia to be a democracy, citing the lack of free and fair elections, purges and jailing of opponents, and curtailed press freedom. Human rights organizations and activists have accused Putin of persecuting political critics and activists, as well as ordering them tortured or assassinated; he has rejected accusations of human rights abuses. Officials of the United States government have accused him of leading an interference program against Hillary Clinton in support of Donald Trump during the U.S. presidential election in 2016, which both Trump and Putin have frequently denied and criticized.Putin has had domestic approval ratings above 60% since taking office in 1999.
In 1975, Putin joined the KGB and trained at the 401st KGB school in Okhta, Leningrad. After training, he 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. From 1985 to 1990, he served in Dresden, East Germany, using a cover identity as a translator. Masha Gessen, a Russian-American who has authored a biography about Putin claims, “Putin and his colleagues were reduced mainly to collecting press clippings, thus contributing to the mountains of useless information produced by the KGB.” 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.
After the collapse of the Communist East German government, Putin returned to Leningrad in early 1990, where he worked for about three months with the International Affairs section of Leningrad State University, reporting to Vice-Rector Yuriy Molchanov. There, he looked for new KGB recruits, watched the student body, and renewed his friendship with his former professor, Anatoly Sobchak, soon to be the Mayor of Leningrad. Putin claims that he resigned with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on 20 August 1991, on the second day of the 1991 Soviet coup d’état attempt against the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. 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”.
In 1999, Putin described communism as “a blind alley, far away from the mainstream of civilization”.
Putin won the 2018 presidential election with more than 76% of the vote. His fourth term began in May 2018.
7 May 2018, Vladimir Putin for the fourth time took office as President of Russia. On this day, Putin invited Dmitry Medvedev to form a new government. On 15 May 2018, Vladimir Putin took part in the opening of the movement along the highway section of the Crimean bridge. On 18 May 2018, Vladimir Putin signed decrees on the composition of the new Government. On 25 May 2018, Putin announced that he would not run for president in 2024, justifying this in compliance with the Russian Constitution. On a straight line on 7 June 2018, he told about his future successor. On 14 June 2018, opened as the head of the country-organizer of the XXI World Cup, which took place in Russia for the first time.
Putin has won international support for sport in Russia. 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, 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.
On 28 July 1983, Putin married Lyudmila Shkrebneva, and they lived together in East Germany from 1985 to 1990. They have two daughters, Mariya Putina, born 28 April 1985 in Leningrad, and Yekaterina Putina, born 31 August 1986 in Dresden, East Germany.
On 6 June 2013, Putin announced that their marriage was over, and on 1 April 2014, the Kremlin confirmed that the divorce had been finalized.
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. 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).
According to Russian opposition politicians and journalists, Putin secretly possesses a multibillion-dollar fortune via successive ownership of stakes in a number of Russian companies. However, according to one editorial in The Washington Post, “Estimates of Putin’s wealth lack even the smallest thread of evidence.”
In April 2016, 11 million documents belonging to 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. However, various media have reported on three of Putin’s associates on the list. According to the Panama Papers leak, close trustees of Putin own offshore companies worth US$2 billion in total. The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung regards the possibility of Putin’s family profiting from this money as plausible.
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.” 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. There have been speculations that Putin, in fact, owns the funds, and Roldugin just acted as a proxy. Putin himself denied it, and his press-secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said the leak was a conspiracy aimed at Putin.