NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the biggest assault on a European state since World War II, leaving people devastated and worried as the invasion enters a second week. It’s also left much of the world looking toward one man: Vladimir Putin. So, who is this leader?
Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin grew up in a tough, communal housing block in an area now known as St Petersburg. It’s reported that he got into fights with boys often bigger than him, which drove him to take up judo.
His political career began when he and his family moved to Moscow in 1996, and he quickly became an important political figure, BBC News reported.
By the 1970s, Putin had studied law and joined KGB, the Russian secret service. After serving 15 years as a foreign intelligence officer for the KGB, before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Putin has since become one of the most reviled world leaders in history.
August 1999 marks the beginning of now-President Putin’s reign over the Russian people. He was appointed acting prime minister by former Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin, who unexpectedly resigned soon after, making Putin acting president.
Putin won the presidency boosted by his pledge to restore Russia’s prominence as a Tier 1 nation on the world stage.
Putin, 69, is certainly not new to the public eye, having to lead the country for the bulk of the 21st century. He’s been in power since 2000 — the longest-serving Kremlin leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who died in 1953, BBC News reported.
Putin’s first two terms as president were marred by multiple hostage crises and attacks by domestic militants. During this time, Putin began unraveling election procedures and breaking apart Russian financial institutions and media outlets.
With term limits halting his presidency, Putin again became prime minister in 2008 to his ally then-President Dmitry Medvedev — eventually convincing Medvedev to extend presidential terms from four years to six.
In 2012, Putin won a third presidential term. However, his election was met with uprisings over allegations of voting irregularities and jailed opposition leaders.
In 2014, Putin began even more aggressive efforts to reunite former Soviet territory as Russian forces began annexing the Crimean Peninsula.
The European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on Moscow in response. Still, they did not deter Putin from later intervening in the Syrian civil war supporting then-President Bashar al-Assad.
Putin was re-elected for six years in 2018. His fourth-term landslide victory places him in the rarefied position of having faced off with five American presidents and an entire generation of Russians.
He has the opportunity to stay in power beyond his fourth term, which ends in 2024, due to a controversial national vote on constitutional reforms. He could remain in office until 2036.
Today, Putin is still attempting to restore the Soviet Union’s once-dominant presence in international relations with his most recent military tactics against Ukraine.