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How Vladimir Putin Rose To Power

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How Vladimir Putin Rose To Power

Russian President Vladimir Putin has become one of the world's most feared leaders since he ordered troops across the border into Ukraine, but just how did he come to power in the first place?

Putin has served two presidential terms as the leader of the Kremlin. His first term lasted from 2000 to 2008, while the second began in 2012 – he remains in power.

However, the 69-year-old began his career in politics in 1996 as part of the KGB, which was the main security agency for the Soviet Union from March 1954 until December 1991.

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Young Vladimir Putin (Alamy)
Young Vladimir Putin (Alamy)

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born in 1952 in Leningrad into a working-class family. He was an only child whose father was a factory worker and a decorated war veteran.

He grew up alongside two other families in a typical Soviet Union-style communal apartment, Business Insider reports.

According to journalist Ben Judah's Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin, Putin – a lover of spy television and novels – asked the KGB how he could join while still in school.

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On the security and intelligence agency's advice, Putin went on to study Law at Leningrad State University. He then worked in foreign intelligence as a mid-level agent for 17 years.

From a young age, Putin also reportedly refused to 'read books by people who have betrayed the Motherland', which further exhibits the roots of the strong nationalism and patriotism that he is infamous for today.

Young Vladimir Putin (Alamy)
Young Vladimir Putin (Alamy)

After joining the KBG in 1975, a moment in Dresden in 1989 acted as a 'defining scar' in Putin's life, and is said to have led to him becoming set on the path of leadership.

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In 1989, the KBG were abandoned by the Moscow government when an anti-Communist mob formed outside its Dresden offices.

As per Judah, Putin stated, 'Moscow is silent – I got the feeling that the country no longer existed, that it had disappeared. It was clear that the Union was ailing. And that it had a terminal disease without a cure – a paralysis of power.'

After resigning from the KBG, Putin began working for then-mayor of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) Anatoly Sobchack in 1991. Sobchack was reportedly a very authoritarian figure who was very politically influential on Putin.

Soon after returning to Moscow with his family in 1996, Putin became the director of the agency that succeeded the KBG, the Federal Security Service (FSB), in 1998. To this day, the FSB is still the country's principal security agency.

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Putin was appointed by Boris Yeltsin, the then-President of Russia, who later promoted him to prime minister in August 1999.

However, on New Year's Eve 1999, Putin was swiftly appointed as acting president after Yeltsin stood down.

Vladimir Putin and Boris Yeltsin (Alamy)
Vladimir Putin and Boris Yeltsin (Alamy)

In March 2000's election, Putin won with 53% of the vote, per Daily Record.

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During his first stint as president of Russia, Putin became known for being a 'man of action' in the second war with Chechnya, during which Russian forces continued to battle against secular separatists whose aim was to make the region independent.

His response to the siege of a theatre in Russia's capital in 2002 – which saw 129 out of 912 Russian hostages die at the hands of 40 Chechen military personnel because of Putin's 'refusal to negotiate with the hostage-takers' – was viewed as 'ruthless'.

After being re-elected for a second term in 2004, scandal surrounded Putin.

In 2006, a Russian journalist who wrote about the army's alleged corruption during the war with Chechnya was found murdered in her apartment on the president's birthday. A week later in London, an FSB defector was also found poisoned.

Multiple other critics of Russia have also been subject to poisoning, from ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, to Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza in 2015.

Sir Robert Owen's 300-page report following the public inquiry into the 2006 murder of Litvinenko, found 'the FSB operation to kill Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr [Nikolai] Patrushev and also by President Putin'.

In February 2021, investigative journalist group Bellingcat's joint investigation with Insider and Der Spiegel claimed Kara-Murza was followed by the same FSB unit that was allegedly behind the poisoning of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny before he fell ill in 2015 and 2017.

Putin returned to his position as prime minister after reaching the maximum allowance of two consecutive terms as president.

However, he has been the leader of the Kremlin ever since taking back the role of president in 2012 with a 64% majority.

In 2014, he annexed Crimea, and on February 24, 2022 he sent troops across the border into Ukraine, marking the start of the ongoing and escalating invasion.

London protest in support of Ukraine. (Alamy)
London protest in support of Ukraine. (Alamy)

As the US, UK and European Union continue to impose strong sanctions on Russia, Moscow's typical allies have had a difficult task in trying to balance their economic ties to the Kremlin with their concerns for security and world peace.

While General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission Xi Jinping and Putin publicly confirmed their newfound relationship, as of March 1 China had still not officially come out in support of either Ukraine or the Kremlin.

Israel, Turkey and India have been similarly indecisive in how to balance their relations with Russia and the West.

While Putin has continued his 'man of action' approach – even putting the country's nuclear forces on 'enhanced combat duty' – intelligence has suggested that the invasion is not going to plan, with Putin having 'overestimated' Russia's military capabilities, and Russian troops reportedly disobeying orders.

If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information 

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: News, Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin

Poppy Bilderbeck
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