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Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (Russian: Влади́мир Влади́мирович Пу́тин; IPA: [vɫɐˈdʲimʲɪr vɫɐˈdʲimʲɪrəvʲɪtɕ ˈputʲɪn] ( listen); born 7 October 1952) is a Russian politician who has been the President of Russia since 7 May 2012. Putin previously served as President from 2000 to 2008, and as Prime Minister of Russia from 1999 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2012. Putin was also previously the Chairman of United Russia.
For sixteen years Putin was an officer in the KGB, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, before he retired to enter politics in his native Saint Petersburg in 1991. He moved to Moscow in 1996 and joined President Boris Yeltsin's administration where he rose quickly, becoming Acting President on 31 December 1999 when Yeltsin resigned unexpectedly. Putin won the subsequent 2000 presidential election and was re-elected in 2004. Because of constitutionally mandated term limits, Putin was ineligible to run for a third consecutive presidential term in 2008. Dmitry Medvedev won the 2008 presidential election and appointed Putin as Prime Minister, beginning a period of so-called "tandemocracy". In September 2011, following a change in the law, Putin announced that he would seek a third, non-consecutive term as President in the 2012 presidential election, an announcement which led to large-scale protests in many Russian cities. He won the election in March 2012 and will serve an increased, six-year term.
Putin has been widely credited for overseeing a return of political stability and economic progress to Russia, ending the crisis of the 1990s. During Putin's first premiership and presidency (1999–2008), real incomes increased by a factor of 2.5, real wages more than tripled; unemployment and poverty more than halved and the Russians' self-assessed life satisfaction rose significantly. Putin's first presidency was marked by high economic growth: the Russian economy grew for eight straight years, seeing GDP increase by 72% in PPP (sixfold in nominal). These achievements have been ascribed by analysts to good macroeconomic management, important fiscal reforms, increasing capital inflows, access to low-cost external financing and a five-fold increase in the price of oil and gas which constitute the majority of Russian exports.
As Russia's president, Putin passed into law a flat income tax of 13%, a reduced profits tax, and new land and legal codes. As Prime Minister, Putin oversaw large scale military reform and police reform. His energy policy has affirmed Russia's position as an energy superpower. Putin supported high-tech industries such as the nuclear and defence industries. A rise in foreign investment contributed to a boom in such sectors as the automotive industry. Development under Putin has included the construction of pipelines, the restoration of the satellite navigation system GLONASS, and the building of infrastructure for international events.
In Russia, Putin's leadership has mostly enjoyed considerable popularity, with generally high approval ratings. However, many of his actions have been characterised by the domestic opposition as undemocratic. Western observers and organisations have also voiced criticism of Putin's leadership. The 2011 Democracy Index stated that Russia has been in "a long process of regression culminated in a move from a hybrid to an authoritarian regime" under Putin, and American diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks allege that Russia has become a "virtual mafia state" due to systematic corruption in Putin's governance. Some critics describe him as a dictator, allegations which Putin adamantly denies. Putin publicly projects an adventurous, macho image via taking part in unusual or dangerous activities; some of these publicity stunts have occasionally been criticised. A keen practitioner of martial arts, Putin has played a major role in the development of sport in Russia, notably, helping Sochi to win the bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Ancestry, early life and education
Putin was born on October 7, 1952, in Leningrad, RSFSR, USSR (now Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation), to parents Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin (1911–1999) and Maria Ivanovna Putina (1911–1998). His mother was a factory worker, and his father was a conscript in the Soviet Navy, where he served in the submarine fleet in the early 1930s. Two elder brothers were born in the mid-1930s; one died within a few months of birth, while the second succumbed to diphtheria during the siege of Leningrad in World War II.
Vladimir Putin's paternal grandfather, Spiridon Ivanovich Putin (1879–1965), was employed at Vladimir Lenin's dacha at Gorki as a cook, and after Lenin's death in 1924, he continued to work for Lenin's wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya. He would later cook for Joseph Stalin when the Soviet leader visited one of his dachas in the Moscow region. Spiridon later was employed at a dacha belonging to the Moscow City Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, at which the young Putin would visit him.
The ancestry of Vladimir Putin has been described as a mystery with no records surviving of any ancestors of any people with the surname "Putin" beyond his grandfather Spiridon Ivanovich. It has been suggested that the Putins are descended from the royal Tverskoy family. The 'family book' of the Tver region where Spiridon was from mentions the name of Putyanin who it claims were a clan of Russian aristocrats descended from Mikhail of Tver, the Grand Prince of Tver in the Middle Ages. It became common practice for family names associated with the former aristocracy to be abbreviated, e.g. Repnin becoming "Pnin" and, perhaps, Putyanin becoming "Putin".
His autobiography, Ot Pervogo Litsa (English: In the First Person), which is based on Putin's interviews, speaks of humble beginnings, including early years in a communal apartment in Leningrad. On 1 September 1960, he started at School No. 193 at Baskov Lane, just across from his house. By fifth grade he was one of a few in a class of more than 45 pupils who was not yet a member of the Pioneers, largely because of his rowdy behavior. In sixth grade he started taking sport seriously in the form of sambo and then judo. In his youth, Putin was eager to emulate the intelligence officer characters played on the Soviet screen by actors such as Vyacheslav Tikhonov and Georgiy Zhzhonov.
Putin graduated from the International Law branch of the Law Department of the Leningrad State University in 1975, writing his final thesis on international law. His PhD thesis was titled "The Strategic Planning of Regional Resources Under the Formation of Market Relations" and it argued that Russian economic success would depend on creating national energy champions. While at university he became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and remained a member until the party was dissolved in December 1991. Also at the University he met Anatoly Sobchak who later played an important role in Putin's career. Anatoly Sobchak was at the time an Assistant Professor and lectured Putin's class on Business Law (khozyaystvennoye pravo).
Putin joined the KGB in 1975 upon graduation, and underwent a year's training at the 401st KGB school in Okhta, Leningrad. He then went on to work briefly in the Second Chief Directorate (counter-intelligence) before he was transferred to the First Chief Directorate, where among his duties was the monitoring of foreigners and consular officials in Leningrad.
From 1985 to 1990, the KGB stationed Putin in Dresden, East Germany. Following the collapse of the East German government, Putin was recalled to the Soviet Union and returned to Leningrad, where in June 1991 he assumed a position with the International Affairs section of Leningrad State University, reporting to Vice-Rector Yuriy Molchanov. In his new position, Putin maintained surveillance on the student body and kept an eye out for recruits. It was during his stint at the university that Putin grew reacquainted with his former professor Anatoly Sobchak, then mayor of Leningrad.
Putin finally resigned from the active state security services with the rank of Lieutenant colonel on 20 August 1991 (with some attempts to resign made earlier), on the second day of the KGB-supported abortive putsch against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Putin later explained his decision: "As soon as the coup began, I immediately decided which side I was on", though he also noted that the choice was hard because he had spent the best part of his life with "the organs".
Early political career
Saint Petersburg administration
In May 1990, Putin was appointed Mayor Sobchak's advisor on international affairs. On 28 June 1991, he was appointed head of the Committee for External Relations of the Saint Petersburg Mayor's Office, with responsibility for promoting international relations and foreign investments. The Committee also registered business ventures in Saint Petersburg. Less than one year later, Putin was investigated by a commission of the city legislative council. Commission deputies Marina Salye and Yury Gladkov concluded that Putin understated prices and permitted the export of metals valued at $93 million, in exchange for foreign food aid that never arrived. Despite the commission's recommendation that Putin be fired, Putin remained head of the Committee for External Relations until 1996.
From 1994 to 1997, Putin was appointed to other positions in Saint Petersburg. In March 1994, he became first deputy head of the city administration. From 1995 through June 1997, he led the Saint Petersburg branch of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia political party. From 1995 through June 1997 he was also the head of the Advisory Board of the JSC Newspaper Sankt-Peterburgskie Vedomosti.
In 1996, Anatoly Sobchak lost the Saint Petersburg mayoral election to Vladimir Yakovlev. Putin was called to Moscow and in June 1996 became a Deputy Chief of the Presidential Property Management Department 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.
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.
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". When Putin later became president, the dissertation became a target of plagiarism accusations by fellows at the Brookings Institution; though the allegedly plagiarised study was referenced to the authors of the allegation felt sure it constituted plagiarism, though they were unsure as to whether it was "intentional"; the dissertation committee denied the accusations. In his dissertation, and in a later article published in 1999, Putin advocated the idea of so-called National champions, a concept that would later become central to his political thinking.
On 25 May 1998, Putin was appointed First Deputy Chief of Presidential Staff for regions, replacing Viktoriya Mitina; and, on 15 July, the 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. Later, after becoming President Putin canceled all those agreements.
On 25 July 1998, Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin head of the FSB (one of the successor agencies to the KGB), the position Putin occupied until August 1999. He became a permanent member of the Security Council of the Russian Federation on 1 October 1998 and its Secretary on 29 March 1999.
First Premiership (1999–2000)
On 9 August 1999, Vladimir Putin was appointed one of three First Deputy Prime Ministers, which enabled him later on that day, as the previous government led by Sergei Stepashin had been sacked, to be appointed acting Prime Minister of the Government of the Russian Federation by President Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin also announced that he wanted to see Putin as his successor. Later, that same day, Putin agreed to run for the presidency. On 16 August, the State Duma approved his appointment as Prime Minister with 233 votes in favour (vs. 84 against, 17 abstained), 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.
Yeltsin's main opponents and would-be successors, Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov and former Chairman of the Russian Government Yevgeniy Primakov, 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 renewed crisis in the North Caucasus, which started when the Islamic International Brigade based in Chechnya invaded a neighboring region starting the War in Dagestan, 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, 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.
On 31 December 1999, Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned and, according to the constitution, Putin became Acting President of the Russian Federation. On assuming this role, Putin went on a previously scheduled visit to Russian troops in Chechnya.
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". This ensured that "corruption charges against the outgoing President and his relatives" would not be pursued, although this claim is not strictly verifiable.[clarification needed] Later, on 12 February 2001, Putin signed a federal law on guarantees for former presidents and their families, which replaced the similar decree.
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.
First Presidency (2000–2004)
Vladimir Putin was inaugurated president on 7 May 2000. He appointed Minister of Finance Mikhail Kasyanov as his Prime minister. Having announced his intention to consolidate power in the country into a strict vertical, in May 2000 he issued a decree dividing 89 federal subjects of Russia between 7 federal districts overseen by representatives of his in order to facilitate federal administration.
During his first term in office, he moved to curb the political ambitions of some of the Yeltsin-era oligarchs such as former Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky, who had "helped Mr. Putin enter the family, and funded the party that formed Mr. Putin's parliamentary base", according to BBC profile. At the same time, according to Vladimir Solovyev, it was Alexey Kudrin who was instrumental in Putin's assignment to the Presidential Administration of Russia to work with Pavel Borodin, and according to Solovyev, Berezovsky was proposing Igor Ivanov rather than Putin as a new president.
Between 2000-2004, and ending following the Yukos-affair, Putin apparently won a power-struggle with the oligarchs, reaching a 'grand-bargain' with them. This bargain allowed the oligarchs to maintain most of their powers, in exchange for their explicit support - and alignment with - his government.
A new group of business magnates, such as Gennady Timchenko, Vladimir Yakunin, Yuriy Kovalchuk, Sergey Chemezov, with close personal ties to Putin, also emerged.
Russia's legal reform continued productively during Putin's first term. In particular, Putin succeeded in the codification of land law and tax law, where progress had been slow during Yeltsin's administration, because of Communist and oligarch opposition, respectively. Other legal reforms included new codes on labour, administrative, criminal, commercial and civil procedural law, as well as a major statute on the Bar.
The first major challenge to Putin's popularity came in August 2000, when he was criticised for his alleged mishandling of the Kursk submarine disaster.
In December 2000, Putin sanctioned the law to change the National Anthem of Russia. At the time the Anthem had music by Glinka and no words. The change was to restore (with a minor modification) the music of the post-1944 Soviet anthem by Alexandrov, while the new text was composed by Sergey Mikhalkov, who previously had authored the lyrics of the two versions of the Soviet anthem.
Many in the Russian press and in the international media warned that the death of some 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 was enjoying record public approval ratings – 83% of Russians declared themselves satisfied with Putin and his handling of the siege.
A few months before the elections, Putin fired Kasyanov's cabinet and appointed Mikhail Fradkov to his place. Sergey Ivanov became the first civilian in Russia to take Defense Minister position.
In 2003, a referendum was held in Chechnya adopting a new constitution which declares the Republic as a part of Russia. Chechnya has been gradually stabilized with the establishment of the parliamentary elections and a regional government. Throughout the war Russia has severely disabled the Chechen rebel movement, although sporadic violence continued to occur throughout the North Caucasus.
Second Presidency (2004–2008)
Putin speaking at the 2005 Victory Day Parade on Red Square. Saint Basil's Cathedral is on the background.
On 14 March 2004, Putin was re-elected to the presidency for a second term, receiving 71% of the vote.
The Beslan school hostage crisis took place in September 2004, in which hundreds died. Among the administrative measures taken after that terrorist act, Putin launched an initiative to replace the direct election of the Governors and Presidents of the Federal subjects of Russia with a system whereby they would be nominated by the President and approved or disapproved by regional legislatures. In 2005 Putin created the Public Chamber of Russia.
In 2005, the National Priority Projects were launched to improve Russia's health care, education, housing and agriculture. The most high-profile change within the national priority project frameworks was probably the 2006 across-the-board increase in wages in healthcare and education, as well as the decision to modernise equipment in both sectors in 2006 and 2007. In his May 2006 annual speech, Putin announced increasing maternity benefits and state support of prenatal care for women. By 2012 the demographic programmes of the government led to a 45% increase in second child births by women, and a 60% increase in third, fourth etc. births.
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. The government said that Khodorkovsky was corrupting a large segment of the Duma to prevent tax code changes such as taxes on windfall profits and closing offshore tax evasion vehicles. Khodorkovsky was arrested, Yukos was bunkrupted and the company's assets were auctioned at below-market value, with the largest share acquired by the state company Rosneft. The fate of Yukos was seen in the West as a sign of a broader shift of Russia towards a system of state capitalism.
A study by Bank of Finland's Institute for Economies in Transition (BOFIT) in 2008 found that state intervention had made a positive impact on the corporate governance of many companies in Russia: the governance was better in companies with state control or with a stake held by the government.
Putin was criticized in the West and also by Russian liberals for what many observers considered a wide-scale crackdown on media freedom in Russia. 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. The death of Politkovskaya triggered an outcry in Western media, with accusations that, at best, Putin has failed to protect the country's new independent media. When asked about the Politkovskaya murder in his interview with the German TV channel ARD, Putin said that her murder brings much more harm to the Russian authorities than her writing. By 2012 the performers of the murder were arrested and named Boris Berezovsky and Akhmed Zakayev as a possible clients.
In 2007, "Dissenters' Marches" were organized by the opposition group The Other Russia, 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. The Dissenters' Marches have received little support among the Russian general public, according to polls.
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.
In December 2007, United Russia won 64.24% of the popular vote in their run for State Duma according to election preliminary results. Their closest competitor, the Communist Party of Russia, won approximately 12% of votes. 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.
On 8 February 2008, Putin delivered a speech before the expanded session of the State Council headlined "On the Strategy of Russia's Development until 2020". In his last days in office Putin was reported to have taken a series of steps to re-align the regional bureaucracy to make the governors report to the prime minister rather than the president. The presidential site explained that "the changes... bear a refining nature and do not affect the essential positions of the system. The key role in estimating the effectiveness of activity of regional authority still belongs to President of the Russian Federation."
Second Premiership (2008–2012)
Putin was barred from a third term by the Constitution. First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was elected his successor. On 8 May 2008, only a day after handing the presidency to Medvedev, Putin was appointed Prime Minister of Russia, maintaining his political dominance.
The 2008-2009 world crisis hit the Russian economy especially hard, interrupting the flow of cheap Western credit and investments. This coincided with tension in relationships with the EU and the U.S. following the 2008 South Ossetia war, in which Russia defeated the U.S. and NATO ally Georgia.
However, the large financial reserves, accumulated in the Stabilization Fund of Russia in the previous period of high oil prices, alongside the strong management helped the country to cope with the crisis and resume economic growth since mid-2009. The Russian government's anti-crisis measures have been praised by the World Bank, which said in its Russia Economic Report from November 2008: "prudent fiscal management and substantial financial reserves have protected Russia from deeper consequences of this external shock. The government's policy response so far—swift, comprehensive, and coordinated—has helped limit the impact." Putin himself named the overcoming of consequences of the world economic crisis one of the two main achievements of his 2nd Premiership (the other named achievement being the stabilisation of the size of Russia's population between 2008-2011 following the long period of demographic collapse started in the 1990s).
At the United Russia Congress in Moscow on 24 September 2011, Medvedev officially proposed that Putin stand for the Presidency in 2012; an offer which Putin accepted. Given United Russia's near-total dominance of Russian politics, many observers believed that Putin was all but 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.
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. However, those protests, organized by the leaders of the Russian "non-systemic opposition", sparked the fear of a colour revolution in society, and a number of "anti-Orange" counter-protests (the name alludes to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine) and rallies of Putin supporters were carried out, surpassing in scale the opposition protests.
Third Presidency (2012–present)
On 4 March 2012, Putin won the 2012 Russian presidential elections in the first round, with 63.6% of the vote. While extraordinary measures were taken to make the elections transparent, including the usage of webcams on the vast majority of polling stations, the vote was criticized by Russian opposition and some international bodies for perceived irregularities.. Several heads of states around the world congratulated Putin on winning elections, Hu Jintao congratulated Vladimir Putin on taking office as Russian president, and wished the Russian people greater achievements in developing their country under Putin's leadership. Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh said "Your success in these elections is an affirmation by the Russian people of your vision of a strong, prosperous and democratic Russia," and added that he "deeply appreciated the personal commitment and attention that you have brought to nurturing the India-Russia strategic partnership over the last 12 years". President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari remarked election results as "resounding victory". A statement by foreign ministry of Venezuela issued that President Hugo Chavez personally congratulates Putin regarding the victory, he called Putin "a driving force behind strategic ties of cooperation between Venezuela and Russia."
Anti-Putin protests took place during and directly after the presidential campaign. The most notorious protest was the 21 February Pussy Riot performance, and subsequent trial. As well, an estimated 8,000-20,000 protesters gathered in Moscow on 6 May. On 6 May, 80 people were injured in confrontations with police, 450 were arrested, with another 120 arrests taking place the following day.
Putin was inaugurated in the Kremlin on 7 May 2012. On his first day as President, Putin issued 14 Presidential decrees, 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 programme articles issued during the Presidential campaign.
Putin's domestic policies, especially early in his first presidency, were aimed at creating a strict "vertical of power". On 13 May 2000, he issued a decree dividing the 89 federal subjects of Russia between 7 federal districts overseen by representatives named by himself in order to facilitate federal administration. Putin also pursued a policy of enlargement of federal subjects: their number was reduced from 89 in 2000 to the present 83 after the autonomous okrugs of Russia were merged with their parent subjects.
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. Putin's administration has often been described as a "sovereign democracy". First proposed by Vladislav Surkov in February 2006, the term quickly gained currency within Russia and arguably unified various political elites around it. According to its proponents, the government's actions and policies ought above all to enjoy popular support within Russia itself and not be determined from outside the country.
In July 2000, according to a law proposed by him and approved by the Federal Assembly of Russia, Putin gained the right to dismiss heads of the federal subjects. In 2004, the direct election of governors by popular vote was ended. 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. The measure proved to be temporary: in 2012, as proposed by Putin's successor Dmitry Medvedev, the direct election of governors was re-introduced. Along with the return of elected governors, Medvedev's reforms also simplified the registration of political parties and reduced the number of signatures required by non-parliamentary parties and independent candidates to participate in elections, thus reverting or further loosening the restrictions imposed by previous Putin-endorsed legislation. Notably, the tough electoral legislation has been among the government actions effected under Putin's presidency that have been criticised by many independent Russian media outlets and Western commentators as anti-democratic.
During his first term in office, Putin moved to curb the political ambitions of some of the Yeltsin-era oligarchs, resulting in the exile or imprisonment of such people as Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky; other oligarchs soon joined Putin's camp.
Putin presided over an intensified fight with organised crime and terrorism that resulted in two times lower murder rates by 2011, as well as significant reduction in the numbers of terrorist acts by the late 2000s.
Putin succeeded in codifying land law and tax law and promulgated new codes on labour, administrative, criminal, commercial and civil procedural law. 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.
Russian GDP since the end of the Soviet Union. The Russian term for GDP is ВВП (VVP) which coincides with the initials of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and is often used as a shortcut when writing or speaking about him.
Under the Putin administration the economy made real gains of an average 7% per year (2000: 10%, 2001: 5.1%, 2002: 4.7%, 2003: 7.3%, 2004: 7.2%, 2005: 6.4%, 2006: 8.2%, 2007: 8.5%), making it the 7th largest economy in the world in purchasing power. Russia's nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 6 fold, climbing from 22nd to 10th largest in the world. In 2007, Russia's GDP exceeded that of Russian SFSR in 1990, meaning it has overcome the devastating consequences of the 1998 financial crisis and preceding recession in the 1990s.
During Putin's eight years in office, industry grew by 76%, investments increased by 125%, and agricultural production and construction increased as well. Real incomes more than doubled and the average monthly salary increased sevenfold from $80 to $640. From 2000 to 2006 the volume of consumer credit increased 45 times and the middle class grew from 8 million to 55 million. The number of people living below the poverty line decreased from 30% in 2000 to 14% in 2008.
In 2001, Putin, who has advocated liberal economic policies, introduced a flat tax rate of 13%; the corporate rate of tax was also reduced from 35 percent to 24 percent; Small businesses also get better treatment. The old system with high tax rates has been replaced by a new system where companies can choose either a 6-percent tax on gross revenue or a 15-percent tax on profits. The overall tax burden is lower in Russia than in most European countries.
A central concept in Putin's economic thinking was the creation of so-called National champions, vertically integrated companies in strategic sectors that are expected not only to seek profit, but also to "advance the interests of the nation". Examples of such companies include Gazprom, Rosneft and United Aircraft Corporation.
Before the Putin era, in 1998, over 60% of industrial turnover in Russia was based on barter and various monetary surrogates. The use of such alternatives to money has now fallen out of favour, boosting economic productivity significantly. Besides raising wages and consumption, Putin's government has received broad praise also for eliminating this problem.
Some oil revenue went to the stabilization fund established in 2004. The fund accumulated oil revenue, allowing Russia to repay all of the Soviet Union's debts by 2005. In early 2008, it was split into the Reserve Fund (designed to protect Russia from possible global financial shocks) and the National Welfare Fund, whose revenues will be used for a pension reform.
Inflation remained a problem however, as between 1999–2007 it was kept at the forecast ceiling only twice, and in 2007 the inflation exceeded that of 2006, continuing an upward trend at the beginning of 2008. The Russian economy is still commodity-driven despite its growth. Payments from the fuel and energy sector in the form of customs duties and taxes accounted for nearly half of the federal budget's revenues. The large majority of Russia's exports are made up of raw materials and fertilizers, although exports as a whole accounted for only 8.7% of the GDP in 2007, compared to 20% in 2000.
In December 2011, after 15 years of negotiations, Russia finally joined the World Trade Organisation. The accession to WTO was expected to be ratified by Russian Parliament in the spring of 2012.
To boost the market share of locally produced vehicles and support the Russia's automotive industry, the government under Putin implemented several protectionist measures and launched programs to attract foreign producers into the country. In late 2005, the government enacted legislation to create special economic zones (SEZ) with the aim of encouraging investments by foreign automotive companies. The benefits of operating in the special economic zones include tax allowances, abolishment of asset and land taxes and protection against changes in the tax regime. Some regions also provide extensive support for large investors (over $100 million.) These include Saint Petersburg/Leningrad Oblast, Kaluga Oblast and Kaliningrad Oblast. Under Putin as President and Premier, most of the world's largest automotive companies opened plants in Russia, including Ford Motor Company, Toyota, General Motors, Nissan, Hyundai Motor, Suzuki, Magna International, Scania and MAN SE.
In 2005, Putin initiated an industry consolidation programme to bring the main aircraft producing companies under a single umbrella organization, the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). The aim was optimize production lines and minimise losses. The programme was divided in three parts: reorganization and crisis management (2007–2010), evolution of existing projects (2010–2015) and further progress within the newly created structure (2015–2025).
The UAC, one of the so-called national champions and comparable to EADS in Europe, enjoyed considerable financial support from the Russian government, and injected money to the companies it had acquired to improve their financial standing. The deliveries of civilian aircraft increased to 6 in 2005, and in 2009 the industry delivered 15 civilian aircraft, worth 12.5 billion roubles, mostly to domestic customers. Since then Russia has successfully tested the fifth generation jet fighter, Sukhoi PAK FA, and started the commercial production of the regional airliner Sukhoi Superjet 100, as well as started developing a number of other major projects.
In a similar fashion, Putin created the United Shipbuilding Corporation in 2007, which led to the recovery of shipbuilding in Russia. Since 2006, much efforts were put into consolidation and development of the Rosatom Nuclear Energy State Corporation, which led to the renewed construction of nuclear power plants in Russia as well as a vast activity of Rosatom abroad, buying huge shares in world's leading uranium production companies and building nuclear power plants in in many countries, including Iran, China, Vietnam and Belarus. In 2007, the Russian Nanotechnology Corporation was established, aimed to boost the science and technology and high-tech industry in Russia.
In the 2000s Russia's oil and gas wealth was transformed into the country's well-being and international influence, and Russia was frequently been described in the media as an energy superpower. Putin oversaw that the growing taxation of oil and gas exports filled in the Russian budget, while oil and gas prices, production, and exports all significantly grew.
Putin sought to Russia's large share on the European energy market by building the submerged gas pipelines bypassing Ukraine and the New Europe (the countries which were often seen as non-reliable transit partners by Russia, especially following Russia-Ukraine gas disputes of the late 2000s). The pipeline projects backed by Putin include the Blue Stream from Russia to Turkey (build on the Black Sea bed), Nord Stream from Russia to Germany (the longest sub-sea pipeline in the world, built through the Baltic Sea) and the planned South Stream from Russia to the Balkans and Italy (via the Black Sea). Russia also undermined the rival pipeline project Nabucco by buying the Turkmen gas and redirecting it into Russian pipelines.
On the other hand 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 built LNG plant on Sakhalin and is building another one in Primorye, aiming to increase the overseas gas exports. Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Finland Russia has built a major Ust-Luga port connected to the Baltic Pipeline System-II, which allowed to export oil without transit through the ports of the Baltic states. The share of processed oil slowly grows with major oil refineries being built in Tatarstan and other regions of Russia.
Putin also presided over resuming the 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 some 1 trillion rubles ($42.7 billion) allocated from the federal budget to nuclear power and industry development before 2015. A large number of nuclear power stations and units are currently being constructed by the state corporation Rosatom in Russia and abroad.
Putin aboard the battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy during the Northern Fleet manoeuvres in the Barents Sea, 2005.
Putin has sought to increase Russian military and economic presence in the Arctic. In August 2007, a Russian expedition named Arktika 2007, led by Artur Chilingarov, planted a Russian flag on the seabed below the North Pole to underline Russia's 2001 claim submission. In June 2008 General Vladimir Shamanov announced that Russia would increase the operational radius of its Northern Fleet submarines. and in July 2011, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov announced plans for two brigades to be stationed in the Arctic.
A construction program of floating nuclear power plants will provide power to Russian Arctic coastal cities and gas rigs. A 21,500-ton barge with twin 35-megawatt reactors, the Akademik Lomonosov, will go into operation in 2012. The Prirazlomnoye field, an offshore oilfield in the Pechora Sea that will include up to 40 wells, is currently under construction and drilling is expected to start in early 2012. It will have the world's first ice-resistant oil platform and will also be the first offshore Arctic platform.
In August 2011 Rosneft, a Russian government-operated oil company, signed a deal with ExxonMobil to receive oil assets in exchange for the joint development of Russian Arctic resources by both companies. The agreement includes a $3.2 billion hydrocarbon exploration of the Kara and Black seas, as well as joint development of ice-resistant drilling platforms and other Arctic technologies. "The scale of the investment is very large. It’s scary to utter such huge figures" said Putin on signing the deal.
Putin uses a tranquiliser gun to sedate an Amur Tiger in the Ussuri Nature Reserve in Primorsky Krai, 2008.
In 2004, President Putin signed the Kyoto Protocol treaty designed to reduce greenhouse gases. 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.
Putin personally supervises and/or promotes a number of protection programmes for rare and endangered animals in Russia:
- The Amur Tiger Programme
- The White Whale Programme
- The Polar Bear Programme
- The Snow Leopard Programme
Religious and national policy
Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism, defined by law as Russia's traditional religions and a part of Russia's "historical heritage" enjoyed limited state support in the Putin era. The vast construction and restoration of churches, started in 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.
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.
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. 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."
On 4 July 2007 Putin made a fully fluent English speech while addressing delegates at the 119th International Olympic Committee Session in Guatemala City on behalf of the successful bid of Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2014 Winter Paralympics, the first Winter Olympic Games in Russia. In 2008, the city of Kazan won the bid for the 2013 Summer Universiade, and in on the 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 Russia.
Other major tournaments which the country has been chosen to host include the 2013 World Championships in Athletics in Moscow and the 2015 World Aquatics Championships in Kazan (both events never held in Russia so far), the Russian Grand Prix (a new race of the Formula One since 2014, to be held in Sochi) and the 2016 IIHF World Championship. Preparations for major international events, in particular in the cases of Sochi and Kazan, include the revamping and build-up of the infrastructure of entire regions of Russia, not only sport venues but transport, energy, communications, housing and public utilities.
Putin personally practices and promotes many sports, including martial arts of sambo, judo and karate (in the first two he was a Champion of Leningrad, in the second two he holds black belts). Putin often is seen on outdoor activities with Dmitry Medvedev, propagandizing sports and healthy way of life among Russians: they were seen alpine skiing in Krasnaya Polyana, playing badminton (Medvedev's favorite sport), bicycling, fishing, and drinking milk together. Putin also started to learn ice skating and playing ice hockey after he promised to do so on a meeting with the Russia men's national junior ice hockey team who had won the 2011 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. Putin tested a Formula 1 car on 7 November 2010 in Saint Petersburg, reaching a maximum speed of 240 km per hour and performed scuba diving at the archaeological site of the ancient Greek colony of Phanagoria in the Taman Bay on 11 August 2011. On his trip to Tuva in August 2007, Putin demonstrated his muscled torso to the cameras while riding horses, rafting, fishing and swimming in a cold Siberian river.
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. The sortie was to be backed up by 47 aircraft, including strategic bombers.
While from the early 2000s Russia started pumping more money into its military and defence industry, it was only in 2008 that the full-scale Russian military reform began, aimed to modernize Russian Armed Forces and made them significantly more effective. The reform was largely carried 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.
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 the 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.
Relations with NATO and the West
Putin's Russia relationships with NATO and the U.S. have passed several stages. When Putin first became President, the relations were cautious. After the 9/11 attacks when Putin quickly supported U.S. in the War on Terror, the opportunity for partnership appeared. 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. Since 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, the 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 profoundly anti-Putin, full of accusations that Putin had caused problems which actually stem from the 1990s, and assertions that Putin was personally responsible for any murders of his Russian political opponents, such as the journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the supposed KGB defector in London, Aleksandr Litvinenko. In an interview with Michael Stürmer, Putin was quoted saying that 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 some way linked. In Putin's view, concessions on one of these questions on the Western side might be met with concessions from Russia on another.
In February 2007, at the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy, Putin openly 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." In this speech, which became known as Munich Speech, Putin called for a "fair and democratic world order that would ensure security and prosperity not only for a select few, but for all". His remarks however were met with criticism by some delegates such as former NATO secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer who called his speech, "disappointing and not helpful." Previously, in a January 2007 interview Putin said Russia is in favor of a democratic multipolar world and of strengthening the systems of international law. The months following Putin's Munich speech 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.
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 of modernising and sharing the use of the Soviet-era Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan rather than building a new system in the Czech Republic Putin proposed it would not be necessary to place interceptor missiles in Poland then, but interceptors could be placed in NATO member Turkey or Iraq. Putin suggested also equal involvement of interested European countries in the project. The proposal was declined. Russia suspended its participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe on 11 December 2007.
Vladimir Putin strongly opposes the secession of Kosovo from Serbia. He called any support for this act "immoral" and "illegal". He described Kosovo's declaration of independence a "terrible precedent" that will come back to hit the West "in the face". He stated that the Kosovo precedent will de facto destroy the whole system of international relations, developed over centuries.
Putin's relations with former American President George W. Bush, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, former French President Jacques Chirac, and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are reported to be personally friendly. Putin's "cooler" and "more business-like" relationship with Germany's new Chancellor, Angela Merkel is often attributed to Merkel's upbringing in the former DDR, where Putin was stationed when he was a KGB agent.
Relations with the U.K.
By mid-2000s, the crisis escalated in the relations between Russia and the United Kingdom as originating with Britain's decision[opinion] to grant Putin's former patron, oligarch Boris Berezovsky, political asylum in 2003. Since then, located in London, Berezovsky often called for the overthrow of Putin and allegedly directed anti-Putin activities in Russia. The United Kingdom also granted asylum to the Chechen rebel leader Akhmed Zakayev and other people who fled from Russia.
In 2006 it became known that Britain spied on Russia using a fake rock, which was located on a street and contained electronic equipment that allowed British diplomats to receive and transmit information. The Russian security service FSB linked the rock with allegations that British were making secret payments to pro-democracy and human rights groups, and the same year President Putin introduced a law which restricted non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from getting funding from foreign governments. This resulted in many NGOs closing. In 2006, the Russian liberal opposition met the media reports on "spy rock" with contempt, alleging that it was made-up by FSB, but in 2012 Jonathan Powell, ex-chief of staff of the U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, confessed that the story with the rock was true.
The end of 2006 brought very strained relations in the wake of the death by polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London. Litvinenko's friends Andrei Nekrasov and Alex Goldfarb (the chairman of Boris Berezovsky's International Foundation for Civil Liberties), made contradicting claims that Litvinenko had either dictated a statement either to his lawyer or to Goldfarb, or agreed with a statement composed by Goldfarb, in which Putin was allegedly accused of directing the assassination. Critics have doubted that Litvinenko is the true author of the released statement. When asked about the Litvinenko accusations, Putin said that a statement released after death of its author "naturally deserves no comment", and stated his belief it was being used for political purposes. In 2012, when Litvinenko's widow admitted that her husband had worked for British intelligence services, Litvininko's father said that the Russian secret services had a right to kill traitors, and regretted "his participation in the smear campaign against Russia in general and [current] Prime Minister Putin in particular".
In 2007, the crisis in relations involved expelling four Russian envoys over Russia's refusal to extradite a former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi to face charges on the alleged murder of Litvinenko, since the Russian constitution prohibits the extradition of Russian nationals to third countries. Mirroring the British actions, Russia expelled UK diplomats and announced that it would suspend issuing visas to UK officials and froze cooperation on counterterrorism in response to Britain suspending contacts with their Federal Security Service. Lugovi subsequently became an MP in the Russian Duma, giving him immunity from prosecution within Russia. On 10 December 2007, the British Ambassador in Moscow, Tony Brenton, reacted by saying: "It is a pity that a man wanted for murder gains political recognition. It does Russia no good at all to have Lugovoy there in the parliament. It continues the suspicion." The same day, Russia ordered the British Council to halt work at its regional offices in the country.
Relations with China and SCO
Putin's Russia maintains strong and 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. 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) in the light of joint Russian-Chinese military exercises, first-ever in history held on Russian territory, made some experts believe that Putin is inclined to set up an anti-NATO bloc or the Asian version of OPEC. 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".
Relations with Iran
On 16 October 2007 Putin visited Iran to participate in the Second Caspian Summit in Tehran, where he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Other participants were leaders of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. This is the first visit of a Soviet or Russian leader to Iran since Joseph Stalin's participation in the Tehran Conference in 1943. 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".
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", though he expressed concerns over the Iranian nuclear programme.
Relations with Australasia, Latin America and others
Putin and his successor Medvedev have enjoyed warm relations with 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. In September 2008, Russia sent Tupolev Tu-160 bombers to Venezuela to carry out training flights. In November 2008, both countries held a joint naval exercise in the Caribbean. Earlier in 2000, Putin had re-established stronger ties with Fidel Castro's Cuba.
In September 2007, Putin visited Indonesia and in doing so became the first Russian leader to visit the country in more than 50 years. In the same month, Putin also attended the APEC meeting held in Sydney, Australia where he met with Australian Prime Minister John Howard and signed a uranium trade deal. This was the first visit by a Russian president to Australia.
In April 2008, Putin visited Libya where he met the leader Muammar Gaddafi, the country welcomed the idea of creating an OPEC-like group of gas-exporting countries, Putin became first Russian President who visited Libya, he remarked the visit as "We are satisfied about the way in which we resolved this problem. I am absolutely convinced that the solution we have found will help the Russian and Libyan economies." 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.", During the whole event, Putin condemned other steps taken by NATO. Upon the death of Muammar Gaddafi, Putin called it as "planned murder" by US, he asked "They showed to the whole world how he (Gaddafi) was killed," and "There was blood all over. Is that what they call a democracy?"
Dmitri Trenin reports in the New York Times that from 2000 to 2010 Russia sold around $1.5 billion worth of arms to Syria, making Damascus Moscow’s seventh-largest client. During the 2011-2 Syrian civil war, Russia threatened to veto any sanctions against the Syrian government, and continued to supply arms to the regime.
Putin opposed any foreign intervention. On 1 June 1 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, rather than the shelling by Syrian forces and the civilian killings attributed by survivors and Western governments toregime supporters. He asked "But how many of peaceful people (sic) were killed by so-called militants? Did you count? There are also hundreds of victims." 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."
Relations with post-Soviet states
A series of the 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 Revolution, according to him: "If you have permanent revolutions you risk plunging the post-Soviet space into endless conflict". During the protests following the 2011 Russian elections (in December 2011) Putin named the Orange Revolution an infamous foreknowledge for Russia.
Apart from a clash of nationalist rhetorics[clarification needed] with the common historical legacies of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire, 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, which left a number of European states, to which Ukraine transits Russian gas, to have serious shortages of natural gas in January 2009. In an interview with the German historian Michael Stürmer about the Russian shut-down of gas to Ukraine in early 2005, Putin linked the shut-down to the Orange revolution, saying: "This has a price [the Orange revolution]. In spite of so much frustration we have stablizied the situation. In old days we concluded agreements with Ukraine year after year, and then included transit fees. The West Europeans had no idea that their energy security was a cliffhanger. By now we have a five-year agreement for transit to the E.U. This is an important step in the direction of European energy security".
The disputes typically arose because of inabilities of Ukraine to pay higher prices for natural gas and pay debts in time. In 2009, the Russia–Ukraine dispute was resolved by a long-term agreement on price formula, agreed by Prime Ministers Vladimir Putin of Russia and Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko (later, when the rising global oil prices prompted the rising gas prizes the agreement turned very unfavourable for Ukraine; in October 2011 Tymoshenko was found guilty of abuse of office when brokering the 2009 deal and was sentenced to seven years in prison).
The plans of Georgia and Ukraine to become members of NATO have caused some tensions between Russia and those states. In 2010, Ukraine did abandon these plans. 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. In public Putin has stated that Russia has no intention of annexing any country.
In August 2008, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili attempted to restore control over the breakaway South Ossetia, claiming this action was in response to Ossetian border attacks on Georgians and to alleged buildups of Russian non-peacekeeping forces. Russian peacekeepers stationed there came under attack during the invasion and fought alongside the South Ossetians as Georgian troops pushed into the province and seized most of the capital of Tskhinvali. 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, and also opened a second front in the other Georgian breakaway province of Abkhazia together with Abkhazian forces. During this conflict, according to high level French diplomat Jean-David Levitte, Putin intended to depose the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and declared: "I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls".
Putin blamed the 2008 war and the bad relations between Russia and Georgia as "the result of the policy that the Georgian authorities conducted back then and still attempt to conduct now"; he stated that Georgia is a "brotherly nation that hopfully will finally understand that Russia is not an enemy, but is a friend and the relations will be restored" (one month before Georgian President Saakashvili had stated "Putin has a problem with Georgian people, but not with Georgian government"). Putin stated in 2009 Georgia could have kept Abkhazia and South Ossetia "within its territory" if it had treated the residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia "with respect" (he claims they did "the opposite").
The President of Ukraine elected during the Orange Revolution, Viktor Yushchenko, was succeeded in 2010 by Viktor Yanukovych, that led to improved relations with Russia. Russia was able to expand the lease for the base for its Black Sea Fleet base in the Ukrainian city Sevastopol in exchange for lower gas prices for Ukraine (the 2010 Ukrainian–Russian Naval Base for Natural Gas treaty). The President of Kyrgyzstan since 2009, Almazbek Atambayev, wants to guide Kyrgyzstan towards the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia and has stated his country has a "common future" with its neighbours and Russia.
Despite existing or past tensions between Russia and most of the post-Soviet states, Putin has followed the policy of Eurasian integration. The Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia has already brought partial economic unity between the three states, and the proposed Eurasian Union is said to be a continuation of this customs union. A number of other regional organizations also provide the basis for further integration: the Union State of Russia and Belarus, the Eurasian Economic Community of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, consisting of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and the Commonwealth of Independent States comprising most of the post-Soviet countries.
On 18 November 2011, the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia signed an agreement, setting a target of establishing the Eurasian Union by 2015. The agreement included the roadmap for the future integration and established the Eurasian Commission (modelled on the European Commission) and the Eurasian Economic Space, which started work on 1 January 2012.
The 2007 election campaign of the United Russia party went under the slogan "Putin's Plan: Russia's Victory". When asked on the "Putin's Plan", Vladimir Putin said that his last five Addresses to the Federal Assembly contained some key parts "devoted to the state's medium-term development", and "if all these key ideas were put together to build a coherent system, it can become the country's development plan in the medium-term."
Later the "Putin's Plan" was transformed into the Strategy 2020, which set the key goals and target figures for Russia's development until 2020. The "Strategy 2020" was first presented by Putin on the Extended Meeting of the State Council on 8 February 2008. It is the second long-term development strategy adopted by the Russian Federation, following the Strategy 2010, which had been made the basis for Russian government programmes in June 2000 and was largely fulfilled by 2010.
Putin has published articles in the Russian press on a number of occasions, in particularly before and during his 2012 presidential campaign. Soon after the announcement that he would run for another Presidency on 24 September 2011, in his article called "New Integration Project for Eurasia – A Future That Is Being Born Today" (Новый интеграционный проект для Евразии – будущее, которое рождается сегодня), published by Izvestiya on 3 October, he brought to attention the idea of the Eurasian Union, composed of Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and possibly other post-Soviet states (the concept was first proposed by the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, during a 1994 speech at a Moscow university). This publication was soon followed by the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia signing an agreement on 18 November 2011 which established the Eurasian Commission (modeled on the European Commission) from 1 January 2012 and set a target of establishing the Eurasian Union (modeled on the European Union) by 2015.
In the course of the 2012 presidential campaign, in order to present his election program, Putin published 7 articles in different Russian editions. In those articles, he presented his vision of the problems which Russia successfully solved in the last decade and the goals yet to be achieved. The topics of the articles were as follows: the general overview, the ethnicity issue, economic tasks, democracy and government efficiency, social policy, military, foreign policy.
Speeches and catch phrases
Addresses to the Federal Assembly
During his terms in office Putin has made eight annual addresses to the Federal Assembly of Russia, speaking on the situation in Russia and on guidelines of the internal and foreign policy of the State (as prescribed in Article 84 of the Constitution).
One of the most important and widely publicized speeches of Putin made abroad was made on 10 February 2007 on the Munich Conference on Security Policy, and hence became known as the Munich speech. It was dubbed by the press to be "the turning point of the Russian foreign policy", and western observers called it the most tough speech from a leader of Russia since the time of the Cold War. The speech was also seen as been made by Putin to openly assert the new (old) role of Russia in the international politics, the role close to that of the Soviet Union and the return to which role is seen as one of the achievements of Putin's Presidency.
In the Munich speech Putin called to uphold the principle "security for everyone is security for all", criticized the policies of the United States and NATO, condemned the unipolar model of international relations as flawed and lacking moral basis, condemned the hypocrisy of countries trying to teach democracy to Russia, condemned the domination of hard power and enforcement by the U.S. of the Western norms and laws to other countries bypassing the international law and substituting the United Nations by NATO or the EU. Putin also called to stop the militarization of space and questioned the plans to deploy American missile defense in Europe as threatening strategic nuclear balance and spurring new arms race (that's when the countries dubbed as rogue states by the West are in fact lacking any rocket weapons capable to threaten Europe or the U.S. and being unable to develop such weapons any time soon). Putin criticized the attempts of the U.S. and NATO to encircle Russia with their military bases, as well as their refusal to ratify the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe even when Russia was already fulfilling it (for which reason Russia had to suspend the treaty later in 2007). His speech was criticized by some attendant delegates at the conference, including former NATO secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer who called it "disappointing and not helpful."
On 4 July 2007 Putin made a full fluent English speech while addressing delegates at the 119th International Olympic Committee Session in Guatemala City on behalf of the successful bid of Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, the first Winter Olympic Games in Russia.
Notable Putin's outdoor speeches include his addresses during the Victory Day Moscow Military Parades one every 9 May in the years between 2000 and 2007. Under Putin's presidency and premiership, the old Soviet tradition of 9 May Parades, which had been in decline in 1990s, was gradually restored in full grandeur. Since the 2008 Moscow Victory Day Parade the armoured fighting vehicles resumed regular taking part in the Red Square parades. Putin often used the Victory Day occasion to discuss Russia's military development and Russia's security and foreign affairs. For example, he said on 9 May 2007 that "threats are not becoming fewer but are only transforming and changing their appearance. These new threats, just as under the Third Reich, show the same contempt for human life and the same aspiration to establish an exclusive dictate over the world."
During his 2012 presidential campaign Putin made a single outdoor public speech at the 100,000-strong rally of his supporters in the Luzhniki Stadium on 23 February, Russia's Defender of the Fatherland Day. In the speech he called not to betray the Motherland, but to love her, to unite around Russia and to work together for the good, to overcome the existing problems. He said that the foreign interference into Russian affairs should not be allowed, that Russia has its own free will. He compared the political situation at the moment (when fears were spread in the Russian society that 2011–2012 Russian protests could instigate a color revolution directed from abroad) with the First Fatherland War of 1812, reminding that its 200th anniversary and the anniversary of the Battle of Borodino would be celebrated in 2012.Putin cited Lermontov's poem Borodino and ended the speech with Vyacheslav Molotov's famous Great Patriotic War slogan "The Victory Shall Be Ours!" ("Победа будет за нами!").
On the post-election celebration rally, while making an acceptance speech, Putin was for the first time ever seen with tears in his eyes (later he explained that "it was windy"). He said to a 110,000-strong audience: "I told you we would win and we won!"
Alluding to Rudyard Kipling's python Kaa, Putin addresses the Russian non-systemic opposition, who, according to him, work for foreign interests: Come to me, Bandar-logs!
Putin has produced a large number of popular aphorisms and catch-phrases, known as putinisms. 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. The examples of most popular putinisms include:
- Мочить в сортире – To bump off in a toilet. One of the earliest "putinisms", made in September 1999, when he promised to destroy terrorists wherever they were found, including in toilets. In 2010, Putin also promised to pluck out the remaining terrorists from the bottom of a sewer (выковырять со дна канализации).
- Она утонула – She sank. Putin's short answer to a question from Larry King in September 2000 asking what happened to the Russian submarine K-141 Kursk. Many criticized Putin for the cynicism perceived in this answer. This curt reply also spawned a new kind of joke based on giving one short, self-evident answer (including a verb in past tense) to a "What has happened with..?" question.
- Пахал, как раб на галерах – literally, Ploughed like a slave on a galley (the Russian verb пахать also has the general meaning of "to do hard work"). This is how Putin described his work as President of Russia from 2000 to 2008 during a Q&A conference in February 2008. Not only did the phrase itself became popular, but a wrong reading of it—как раб ("like a slave") in Russian sounds almost identical to как краб ("like a crab")—led to the appearance of a popular Internet nickname for Putin, "Crabbe" (Russian: Крабе), while Dmitry Medvedev was (for some reason) similarly nicknamed Shmele (Russian: Шмеле, a non-existent vocative form of шмель, meaning "bumblebee").
- От мертвого осла уши – Ears of a dead ass. According to Putin, that was what Latvia would receive instead of the western Pytalovsky District of Russia claimed by Latvia in a territorial dispute stemming from the Soviet border redrawing. On 27 March 2007 Russia and Latvia signed the treaty on state border, in which Latvia renounced its territorial claims.
- Шакалить у иностранных посольств – Jackaling at foreign embassies. Putin's view of the Russian "non-systemic opposition": characterising them as having minimal support among the population, he says that they turn to asking for money and support from foreign governments.
- Как минимум государственный деятель должен иметь голову. – At the very least, a state leader should have a head. Putin's response to Hillary Clinton's claim that Putin has no soul. He also recommended that international relations be built without emotion and instead on the basis of the fundamental interests of the states involved.
- Ручку верните – Return my pen. A phrase said by Putin to the industrial oligarch Oleg Deripaska, after Deripaska was forced by Putin to sign, using Putin's pen, an agreement aimed at resolving a socio-economic crisis in the monograd of Pikalyovo on 4 June 2009, which had escalated after the different owners of the aluminum oxide plant and connected enterprises in the town did not pay their workers' salaries and were unable to negotiate the terms on which the local industrial complex would work. Putin came to the scene personally to conduct the negotiations.
Ratings and polls
According to public opinion surveys conducted by NGO Levada Center, Putin's approval rating was 81% in June 2007, and the highest of any leader in the world. His popularity rose from 31% in August 1999 to 80% in November 1999 and since then it has never fallen below 65% during his Presidency. Observers see Putin's high approval ratings as a consequence of the significant improvements in living standards and Russia's reassertion of itself on the world scene that occurred during his tenure as President.[dead link] One analysis attributed Putin's popularity, in part, to state-owned or state-controlled television.
A joint poll by World Public Opinion in the US and Levada Center  in Russia around June–July 2006 stated that "neither the Russian nor the American publics are convinced Russia is headed in an anti-democratic direction" and "Russians generally support Putin's concentration of political power and strongly support the re-nationalization of Russia's oil and gas industry." Russians generally support the political course of Putin and his team. A 2005 survey showed that three times as many Russians felt the country was "more democratic" under Putin than it was during the Yeltsin or Gorbachev years, and the same proportion thought human rights were better under Putin than Yeltsin.
Putin was Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2007. In April 2008, Putin was put on the Time 100 most influential people in the world list.
On 4 December 2007, at Harvard University, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev credited Putin with having "pulled Russia out of chaos" and said he was "assured a place in history", despite Gorbachev's claim that the news media have been suppressed and that election rules run counter to the democratic ideals he has promoted". In 2009 Gorbachev also claimed that neither the parliament nor the justice are really free in Russia. In December 2011, amid the protests following the 2011 Russian legislative elections Gorbachev criticized Putin for a decision to seek the third term in the presidential elections and advised Putin to leave politics. Putin's press spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on Gorbachev's expressions as following: "A former leader, who was basically responsible for the dissolution of his country, gives advice to the person, who could prevented Russia from a similar destiny".
Criticism of Putin has been spread especially over the Runet. It is said that the Russian youth organisations finance a full "network" of pro-government bloggers.
In the U.S. embassy cables, published by WikiLeaks in late 2010, Putin was called "alpha dog" and compared with Batman (while Dmitry Medvedev was compared with Batman's crime-fighting partner Robin). American diplomats said Putin's Russia had become "a corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy centred on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs and organised crime are bound together to create a "virtual mafia state."" Putin called it "slanderous".
By western commentators and the Russian opposition, Putin has been described as a dictator. Putin biographer Masha Gessen has stated that "Putin is a dictator," comparing him to Alexander Lukashenko. Former UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has described Putin as a "ruthless dictator" whose "days are numbered." U.S. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Putin "a real threat to the stability and peace of the world."
Putin's name and image are widely used in advertisement and product branding. 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.
Adventures and image
Putin often supports an outdoor, sporting, tough guy image in the media, demonstrating his physical capabilities and taking part in unusual or dangerous acts, such as extreme sports and interaction with wild animals. 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." Such photo ops are part of a public relations approach that, according to Wired, "deliberately cultivates the macho, take-charge superhero image". Other notable examples of Putin's macho adventures include:
- Flying military jets. Putin flew a Sukhoi Su-27 fighter over Chechnya in 2000 and a Tu-160 supersonic heavy bomber on 16 August 2005 at MAKS Airshow.
- Martial arts. Putin demonstrated his martial art skills on a tatami at the Kodokan Institute in Tokyo on 5 September 2000 and did more such demonstrations since.
- Adventures in the wild. On his trip to Tuva in August 2007, Putin was riding horses, rafting, fishing and swimming in a cold Siberian river (doing all that mostly bare-chested). In August 2009 Putin repeated the experience.
- Descending in a deepwater submersible. On 1 August 2009 Putin descended 1395 m to the bottom of Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake, on a MIR submersible accompanied by deepwater explorer Anatoly Sagalevich (who had been among the team which had reached the bottom at the North Pole in the Arktika 2007 expedition). From the bottom of Baikal Putin spoke to journalists via hydrophone.
- Tranquilizing tigers. In 2008 Putin visited the Ussuri national park, where he sedated an Amur tiger with a tranquiliser gun and then helped measure its teeth and fit it with a tracker. Claims were made later that the tiger was actually from the Khabarovsk Zoo and that it died soon after the stunt, but the suspected tiger named by the Khabarovsk Zoo workers was found in late 2009 in Zelenogorsk, while the claims of a stunt were denied by the scientists who organized the "safari". Putin's website carries a map of the tiger's movements in the wild, but it has been claimed that the movements are not those of the tiger Putin was seen fitting with the tracker.
- Tranquilizing polar bears. In April 2010 Putin traveled to Franz Josef Land in the Russian Arctic, where he tranquilized a polar bear and attached a satellite tag to him.
- Riding a motorbike. In July 2010 Putin appeared at a Bikers festival in Sevastopol riding a Harley-Davidson tricycle; the high council of Russian bikers movements unanimously voted him into a Hells Angel rank with the nickname of Abaddon.
- Firefighting from the air. In August 2010, Russian TV broadcasted video of Putin co-piloting a firefighting plane Beriev Be-200 to dump water on a raging fire during the 2010 Russian wildfires.
- Shooting darts at whales. In late August 2010 Putin shot darts from a crossbow at a gray whale off Kamchatka Peninsula coast as part of an eco-tracking effort, while balancing on a rubber boat in the sea.
- Driving a race car. Putin tested a Formula 1 car on 7 November 2010 in Saint Petersburg, reaching a maximum speed of 240 km per hour.
- Scuba diving. Putin took part in scuba diving at the archaeological site of the ancient Greek colony of Phanagoria in the Taman Bay on 11 August 2011. During the dive he "discovered" two amphorae and emerged from the sea exclaiming to television cameras "Treasure!" In October 2011, spokesman Dmitry Peskov told media: "Putin did not find the amphorae on the sea bed that had been lying there for thousands of years [...] That is obvious. They were found during an [archaeological] expedition several weeks or days beforehand. Of course they were then left there [for him to find] or placed there. It is a completely normal thing to do." According to Britain's Telegraph newspaper: "The 'find' was presented as the latest in a long line of remarkable feats by Mr Putin, shoring up his image as an energetic action man who is successful in everything he does."
- Playing ice hockey. Putin for the first time started to learn ice skating and playing ice hockey after he promised to do so on a meeting with the junior Russian ice hockey players who had won the 2011 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. In 2011 he appeared on several training games shown on Russian TV.
Singing and painting
On 11 December 2010, at a concert organized for a children's charity in Saint Petersburg, Putin sang Blueberry Hill accompanying himself on the piano. The concert was attended by various Hollywood and European stars such as Kevin Costner, Sharon Stone, Alain Delon, and Gerard Depardieu. At the same event Putin played "С чего начинается Родина?" (From What the Motherland Begins?, a patriotic song from Putin's favourite spy movie "Щит и меч", The Shield and the Sword). Putin also played or sang that song on a number of other occasions, such as a meeting with the Russian spies deported from the U.S., including Anna Chapman. Another melody which Putin is known to play on the piano is the Anthem of Saint Petersburg, his native city.
Putin's painting "Узор на заиндевевшем окне" (A Pattern on a Hoarfrost-Encrusted Window), which he had painted during the Christmas Fair on 26 December 2008, became the top lot at the charity auction in Saint Petersburg and sold for 37 million rubles. The picture was made for a series of other paintings by famous Russians. The painters were required to illustrate one of the letters of the Russian alphabet with a subject connected to Nikolay Gogol's novel Christmas Eve (the 200th anniversary from Gogol's birth was celebrated in 2008). Putin's picture depicted a hoarfrost pattern (Russian: Узор, illustrating the Cyrillic letter У) on a window with curtains sewn with traditional Ukrainian ornaments. The creation of the painting coincided with the 2009 Russia-Ukraine gas dispute, which left a number of European states without Russian gas and amid January frosts.
In popular culture
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. Dobby, a house elf from Harry Potter film series, has been found to look like Putin, and so was also Daniel Craig in his role of James Bond (he was the first blond actor to play James Bond).
There are a large number of songs about Putin. Some of the more popular include:
- Такого, как Путин – "[I Want] A Man Like Putin" by Singing Together
- Гороскоп (Путин, не ссы!) – "Horoscope (Putin, Don't Piss!)" by Uma2rman
- ВВП – "VVP" by a Tajik singer Tolibjon Kurbankhanov (Толибджон Курбанханов)
Putin also is a subject of Russian jokes and chastushkas, such as a popular chastushka song "[Before Putin] There Was No Orgasm" featured in the comedy film The Day of Elections. There is a meta-joke, that since the coming of Putin to power, all the classic jokes about a smart yet rude boy called Вовочка (Vovochka, diminutive from Vladimir) have suddenly become political jokes.
Putin features in the colouring book for children Vova and Dima (presented on his 59th birthday), where he and Dmitry Medvedev are drawn as good-behaving little boys, and in the Superputin online comics series, where Putin and Medvedev are portrayed first as superheroes, and then as a troll and an orc in the World of Warcraft.
Another birthday present to Putin was an erotic calendar Happy Birthday, Mr. Putin!, released on 7 October 2010. The calendar features twelve semi-nude female students of journalism faculty at the Moscow State University, each for every month, with a short message.
On 28 July 1983 Putin married Kaliningrad-born Lyudmila Shkrebneva, at that time an undergraduate student of the Spanish branch of the Philology Department of the Leningrad State University and a former Aeroflot flight attendant. They lived together in Germany from 1985 to 1990. During this time, according to BND archives, a German spy befriended Putina, who said that Putin beat her and had love affairs. When the couple left Germany in 1990 it was rumoured that Putin left behind an illegitimate child. Putina is now rarely seen with Putin and there have been rumours, according to the Daily Mail and other newspapers, that the couple have separated. Putin has been linked by newspapers with other women, including gymnast Alina Kabayeva and ex-spy Anna Chapman. These rumours have been denied.
Putin and his 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). The daughters grew up in East Germany and attended the German School in Moscow until his appointment as Prime Minister. After that they studied international economics at the Finance Academy in Moscow, although it was not officially reported due to security reasons. According to the Daily Mail, their photographs have never been published by the Russian media, and no family portrait has ever been issued.
Personal wealth and residences
Figures released during the legislative election of 2007 put Putin's wealth at approximately 3.7 million rubles ($150,000) in bank accounts, a private 77.4-square-meter (833 sq ft) apartment in Saint Petersburg, 260 shares of Bank Saint Petersburg (with a December 2007 market price $5.36 per share) and two 1960s-era Volga M21 cars that he inherited from his father and does not register for on-road use. In 2012 Putin reported an income of 3.6 million rubles ($113,000). This has led opponents, such as politician Boris Nemtsov, to question how Putin can afford certain possessions, such as his 11 luxury watches worth an estimated $700,000.
Putin's 2006 income totalled 2 million rubles (approximately $80,000). According to the data Putin did not make it into the 100 wealthiest Duma candidates of his own United Russia party.
Unconfirmed claims by some Russian opposition politicians and journalists allege that Putin secretly possesses a large fortune (as much as $40 billion) via successive ownership of stakes in a number of Russian companies. Asked at a press conference on 14 February 2008 whether he was the richest person in Europe, as some newspapers claimed; and if so, to state the source of his wealth, Putin said "This is plain chatter, not worthy discussion, plain bosh. They have picked this in their noses and have smeared this across their pieces of paper. This is how I view this."
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, 9 of which were built during Putin's 12 years in power. This compares to the President of the United States' 2 official residences. 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 (the latter two were left for Putin when he was Prime-Minister in 2008-2012, others were used by Dmitry Medvedev at that period). Furthermore, a massive Italianate-style mansion costing an alleged USD 1 billion 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. 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.
Apart from Russian, Putin speaks fluent German. His family used to speak German at home as well. After becoming President he was reported to be taking English lessons and could be seen conversing directly with Bush and native speakers of English in informal situations, but he continues to use interpreters for formal talks. Putin spoke English in public for the first time during the state dinner in Buckingham Palace in 2003 saying but a few phrases while delivering his condolences to Queen Elizabeth II on the death of her mother. He made a full fluent English speech while addressing delegates at the 119th International Olympic Committee Session in Guatemala City on behalf of the successful bid of Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Putin's father was "a model communist, genuinely believing in its ideals while trying to put them into practice in his own life". With this dedication he became secretary of the Party cell in his workshop and then after taking night classes joined the factory's Party bureau. Though his father was a "militant atheist", Putin's mother "was a devoted Orthodox believer". Though she kept no icons at home, she attended church regularly, despite the government's persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church at that time. She ensured that Putin was secretly christened as a baby and she regularly took him to services. His father knew of this but turned a blind eye.
According to Putin's own statements, his religious awakening followed the serious car crash of his wife in 1993, and was deepened by a life-threatening fire that burned down their dacha in August 1996. Right before an official visit to Israel his mother gave him his baptismal cross telling him to get it blessed "I did as she said and then put the cross around my neck. I have never taken it off since." When asked whether he believes in God during his interview with Time, he responded saying: "…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."
One of Putin's favorite sports is the martial art of judo. Putin began training in sambo (a martial art that originated in the Soviet Union) at the age of 14, before switching to judo, which he continues to practice today. Putin won competitions in his hometown of Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), including the senior championships of Leningrad in both sambo and judo. He is the President of the Yawara Dojo, the same Saint Petersburg dojo he practiced at when young. 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).
Though he is not the first world leader to practice judo, Putin is the first leader to move forward into the advanced levels. Currently, Putin holds a 6th dan (red/white belt) and is best known for his Harai Goshi (sweeping hip throw). Putin earned Master of Sports (Soviet and Russian sport title) in judo in 1975 and in sambo in 1973. At a state visit to Japan, Putin was invited to the Kodokan Institute, the judo headquarters, where he showed different judo techniques to the students and Japanese officials.
Putin also holds a 6th dan black belt in Kyokushin kaikan karate. He was presented the black belt in December 2009 by Japanese champion Kyokushin Karate-Do master Hatsuo Royama.
Putin is a keen alpine skier. He often is seen skiing with Dmitry Medvedev on a new Russian skiing resort at Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi. On 22 March 2011, Putin was presented a pair of alpine skies from a Prime Minister of Slovenia, Borut Pahor.
Putin often plays sporting games and enjoys outdoor activity with Dmitry Medvedev, propagandizing sports and healthy way of life among Russians. They were seen on a video playing badminton with Medvedev (Medvedev's favorite sport), as well as doing bicycle rides and fishing together.
During his Premiership, Putin for the first time started to learn ice skating and playing ice hockey, after he promised to do so on a meeting with the junior Russian ice hockey players who had won the 2011 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. In 2011 he appeared on several training games shown on Russian TV. Putin also enjoys watching football and supports FC Zenit Saint Petersburg, the main team of his native city.
Putin owns a female black Labrador Retriever named Koni, given as a gift in 2000 by General of the Army and Russia's Minister of Emergency Situations Sergey Shoigu. Koni is often seen at Putin's side and has been known to accompany him into staff meetings and greet world leaders. In 2003 on the day of the Russian legislative election, Koni gave birth to eight pups, which were later given as presents to Russian citizens, politicians and foreign ambassadors. Koni gained additional fame in 2004 when Detskaya Literatura, the largest Russian publisher of children's books, published a book entitled Connie's Stories. In 2008 Koni became the first recipient of a GLONASS-enabled pet collar, highlighting the progress of the Russian global navigation satellite system.
- In September 2006, France's president Jacques Chirac awarded Vladimir Putin the Grand-Croix (Grand Cross) of the Légion d'honneur, the highest French decoration, to celebrate his contribution to the friendship between the two countries. This decoration is usually awarded to the heads of state considered very close to France.
- In 2007, Putin was named Time magazine's Person of the Year.
- On 12 February 2007 Saudi King Abdullah awarded Putin the King Abdul Aziz Award, Saudi Arabia's top civilian decoration.
- On 10 September 2007 UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan awarded Putin the Order of Zayed, the UAE's top civil decoration.
- In December 2007 Putin was named Person of the Year by Expert magazine, an influential and respected Russian business weekly.
- On 5 October 2008 the central street of Grozny, the capital of Russia's Republic of Chechnya, was renamed from the Victory Avenue to the Vladimir Putin Avenue, as ordered by the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.
- In February 2011 Kyrgyzstan parliament named a peak in Tian Shan mountains Vladimir Putin Peak.
- On 15 November 2011 the China International Peace Research Center awarded the Confucius Peace Prize to Putin, citing as reason Putin's opposition to NATO's Libya bombing in 2011 while also paying tribute to his decision to go to war in Chechnya in 1999. According to the committee, Putin's "Iron hand and toughness revealed in this war impressed the Russians a lot, and he was regarded to be capable of bringing safety and stability to Russia".
- In 2011, the University of Belgrade awarded Putin an honorary doctorate.
References and notes
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- Putin Hails Vote Victory, Opponents Cry Foul RIAN
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- McFaul, Michael; Stoner-Weiss, Kathryn (2010). "Elections and Voters". In White, Stephen. Developments in Russian Politics 7. New York: Palgrave McMillan. p. 72. ISBN 9780230224490.
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- Russia’s economy under Vladimir Putin: achievements and failures RIA Novosti Retrieved on 1 May 2008
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- (Sakwa 2008, pp. 8–9)
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- R. Sakwa Putin: Russia's Choice, pp. 10-11
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- Putin's Name Surfaces in German Probe by Catherine Belton
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