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Vladimir Putin is a mysterious former agent of the feared KGB, the intelligence services of the former Soviet Union, whom a meteoric political career made president of Russia and also, as he has shown so far in 2022, with his decision to invade Ukraine, in the most feared man in the world.
After more than 22 years in power and living in a strict bubble, Putin has earned the dubious honor because he has made the world rethink the unthinkable: a nuclear war, with the xe2x80x9cmutual assured destructionxe2x80x9d that is the ultimate foundation of the existence of the terrible atomic arsenals.
To Putin and his decision to invade Ukraine, in addition to the terrible images that come from that country, we owe a spiral of instability in Europe with unpredictable consequences: shielding itself from possible Russian aggression.
Germany has embarked on doubling its military budget, Finland and Sweden are considering joining NATO, several former Soviet republics are seeking shelter in the European Union. And even Switzerland broke its historic neutrality to send aid to Ukraine, something that did not happen even in World War II.
The meteoric race that brought Putin to the presidency
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born on October 7, 1952 in what was then Leningrad and is now Saint Petersburg. There he studied law and graduated in 1975, the year he joined the Committee for State Security, the infamous KGB.
That, that he had two brothers who had died before he was born, and that he practiced judo and studied German are some of the few biographical facts of his youth that can be considered beyond controversy.
Because as Fiona Hill points out in xe2x80x9cPutin, an operative in the Kremlin (Geopolitics of the 21st century)xe2x80x9d: xe2x80x9c We ignore some of the most basic facts about a man who is perhaps the most powerful individual in the world.xe2x80x9d
Hill points out that this is not surprising because it is about xe2x80x9c a master at manipulating informationsuppress information and create pseudo-informationxe2x80x9d.
xe2x80x9cMaterials related to a notorious food scandal that nearly ended Putinxe2x80x99s career in the 1990s have been purged, along with those who had access to them,xe2x80x9d says Hill.
In addition, his wife Lyudmila (whom he married in 1983 and whom he divorced in 2014) and his daughters, Marxc3xada and Yekaterina, born in 1985 and 86, have always remained extraordinarily out of the public eye.
These are the people closest to Putin who could influence him in decision-making
We do know that he completed his year of KGB training in Moscow. And that in 1985 was stationed in Dresden, Germany, where he worked on counterintelligence. In 1990, already with the rank of lieutenant colonel, the fall of the Soviet Union brought him back to Russia.
Back in his hometown, he landed a position as deputy dean of his alma mater, Leningrad State University, and as adviser to the mayor, Anatoli Sobchka. In 1991, he was appointed deputy mayor, where he stayed until his boss lost re-election in 1996. He then moved to Moscow.
In the capital began a meteoric political career which led him to be head of the Kremlin Quartermaster, deputy director of the presidential cabinet (1997) and director of the Federal Security Service, heir to the KGB (1998).
In 1999, in the midst of enormous political volatility at the time, President Boris Yeltsin he named him prime minister and designated him as his successor in elections scheduled for the following year.
However, on December 31, 1999, he replaced the resigned Yeltsin as interim president. In March he was endorsed at the polls with almost 53% of the votes. Putin assumed the presidency on May 7, 2000.
Putin, president, prime minister and president
Putin has been in power since he succeeded Yeltsin. He was president until 2008, when the term limit in the Constitution forced him to leave office but not power. What he did was castling with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
President Medvedev, a technocrat, named him prime minister and pushed through reforms to give the post more power. He also extended the presidential term to six years from 2012, when Putin returned to the head of state. He did it with 63.6% of the votes and in the midst of allegations of fraud. In 2021, he promoted reforms to lift these limitations and be able to stay in power until 2036, when he would be 84 years old.
As president, Putinxe2x80x99s years have been marked by the start-up of the enormous propaganda apparatus dedicated to the cult of personality and by the number of poisonings and murders suffered by opponentsas recently happened to Alexey Navalny.
And also, of course, because of the wars in the former Soviet countries, as is now happening in the Ukraine.
He was still prime minister when the Second Chechen War began in retaliation for a series of attacks that killed hundreds of civilians. And he was already president during the siege of the capital, Grozny, which the United Nations came to consider in 2003 the most destroyed city on Earth. There was not a single building left unaffected.
In 2008, it invaded Georgia in what was a story with many parallels to that of Ukraine: a former Soviet republic moved away from Moscowxe2x80x99s orbit, pro-Russians from two provinces rose up against the government, the Kremlin recognized its independence and intervened to save the population of an alleged genocide.
Russian forces have been busy since 2015 intervening in the Syrian civil war, where they came to the rescue of Bashar al-Assad, whose government was not far from falling, cornered by Islamists and rebels supported by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Ukraine, in 2014, has been a similar case, it also started with a distant former Soviet republic, talking about entering the European Union and NATO, and two provinces with rising pro-Russian militias, in this case Donetsk and Luhansk, whose war Putin fueled until it ended up recognizing them as independent.
Although the case has several important caveats. Putin annexed Crimea (which Ukraine left without water), Ukraine is much bigger (the blitzkrieg doesnxe2x80x99t seem to have worked), the Russians feel it is much closer (there is hope that this will prevent it from turning Kiev into a new Grozny) and the Russian deployment was too large to be able to hide its invasion: in fact, it announced the xe2x80x9cmilitary operationxe2x80x9d in a speech.
Those who follow him most closely say that Putin is beginning to be aware that time is passing and his dream of a Russian neo-empire is not advancing. In recent months, many observers have begun to spea
k of radicalization and paranoia, especially given the extreme isolation in which he has lived throughout the pandemic.
Senator Marco Rubio wrote on Twitter that xe2x80x9csomething is wrong with Putin.xe2x80x9d xe2x80x9cHe has always valued his emotional control, the ability to not show emotion and see the anger the other day, itxe2x80x99s not characteristic,xe2x80x9d Rubio told reporters.
xe2x80x9cIxe2x80x99m not going to make an assessment of his mental stability, but certainly the rhetoric, the actions, the justification that he gives for what he does is deeply troubling,xe2x80x9d he told abcnews White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday.
French diplomatic sources told Reuters that President Emmanuel Macron encountered a very different Putin during his last visit to Moscow. The meeting of both presidents was described as a monologue of five hours, with a historical revisionism full of the supposed grievances suffered by Russia.
xe2x80x9cWe realized how different he is from the Putin of three years agoxe2x80x9csaid the source.
Calls for sanctions against Russia to personally affect Putin himself date as far back as 2014, with the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.
Officially, he has a salary of $140,000 a year, owns an 800-square-foot apartment, a trailer, and three cars.
But multiple investigations have appeared in the media about the alleged vast fortune that he has amassed as in a kind of auction to see who gives the most.
In 2017, Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, with long experience working in Russiaxe2x80x99s power circles, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that estimated Putinxe2x80x99s fortune at 200,000 million. I mean, the president of Russia is secretly richer than Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos combined.
A disgraced source close to Putin told the British news network BBC in 2012 that the president was behind the construction of a ostentatious palace on the shores of the Black Sea which some estimate may have cost $1 billion. The same one that the opposition Aleksey Navalny spoke about in 2021.
The media have also linked Putin to a yacht valued at up to $100 million named xe2x80x98Gracefulxe2x80x99. Three weeks before the invasion was launched, the ship left Germany for waters off the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
In the Pandora Papers, Svetlana Krivonogikh is credited with an alleged romantic relationship with the president and the ownership of a luxurious apartment in Monaco valued at more than $4 million, acquired shortly after giving birth to a girl. The Kremlin has denied the veracity of this story.
And the list of Putinxe2x80x99s alleged assets can go on. But the truth is that beyond the salary, the apartment and the cars, his true heritage is a mystery. And that is why the sanctions are focused on the xe2x80x9coligarchsxe2x80x9d considered people from his environment.
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5 things: Trump calls Putin a xe2x80x98geniusxe2x80x99 2:32 (CNN) xe2x80x94 Americans rarely pay much attention xe2x80xa6