Putin was born in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg). During his KGB officer career from 1975 to 1991 he lived several years in Germany. He was head of the FSB (the KGB's successor) from July 1998 to August 1999. He was prime minister in Boris Yeltsin's government from August 1999. As Prime Minster he won great acclaim from the Russian people for managing the reinvasion of Chechnya. On December 31, 1999, Yeltsin resigned, and made Putin the second (acting) President of the Russian Federation. Proper Presidential elections were held on March 26, 2000, which Putin won.
Unlike his predecessor, President Putin has been less enthusiastic about erasing Russia's Soviet past from memory. He has stated his belief that whatever the crimes of the Communist regime, it was neverless an important part of Russian history, and an important influence on the creation of modern Russian society. As a result, some Soviet era symbols have been allowed to return to Russia, such as the trademark red military flag, the "Soviet Star" crest, and the Soviet national anthem (although with revised lyrics).
Putin was against the war in Iraq during the Iraq crisis of 2003. After the war ended, American president George W. Bush asked the United Nations for the lifting of sanctions on Iraq. Putin was against the lifting of the sanctions, arguing that first weapons of mass destruction should be destroyed.
In March 2004, the Presidential elections are due. It is expected that Putin should comfortably win re-election to the Presidency for his second and final term. He is not permitted under the Constitution to run after his second term (although following the 2003 parliamentary elections he gained a sufficient majority to change the Constitution).
It is said that there are two factions operating within Putin's Kremlin. One, the siloviki, is associated with the more nationalist elements of the military and security services. The other, tagged the Family, are people linked with former President Boris Yeltsin and the oligarchs who prospered during his term in office. These two factions often fiercely disagree, as they did in relation to the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian oil magnate. Putin has been careful not to be seen to be with one faction or the other, with his Chief of Staff Alexander Voloshin identified as linked to the Family. It is believed that Voloshin threatened to resign in protest at the arrest of Khodorkovsky. Putin accepted the resignation and replaced him Dmitry Medvedev, the chairman of Gazprom the state owned gas company.
Another linked to the Family is Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. Defying Putin's direct instruction to avoid involvement in the matter, Kasyanov expressed great concern about the Khodorkovsky prosecution and declared the freezing of a controlling stake in Yukos unprecedented.
Next elections would normally be held in March 2004.
|President of Russia|