Who is this man they call Putin?

Vladimir Putin

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin this year emerged as the world’s most influential man.

He has outmanoeuvred his Western critics whilst returning Russia to superpower status and sponsoring Orthodox Christianity. Intriguingly, the Western media lampoons and criticises him but this hardly dents his growing popularity in the West. 

Facebook’s For Mother Russia portal uses images of the Russia leader to poke fun at US President Barrack Obama, yet over half FMR’s friends are Americans. The ex-KGB officer Vladimir is arguably more popular in Britain than is PM David Cameron and whatsisname.

It is nothing if not astounding that a man born in 1952 to a sailor, his mother a St Petersburg factory worker, could have risen to such heights. His name is now associated with Russia’s rise from the political and economic ashes.

President Obama and David Cameron are not the only ones to despair when Vladimir appears. His schoolteachers cringed when each morning the eight-year old rebel emerged from his council flat. The youngster was the only student barred from membership of the Young Pioneers, the Soviet version of the Hitler Youth, for his rebelliousness.  A keen sportsman, he is a martial arts enthusiast.

Upon leaving school in 1970, Putin studied international law at St Petersburg State University. Then, after graduating, he pursued his dream to work in the field of intelligence. Today, he makes fun of the US for their notoriety in surveillance. However, the enigmatic Russian leader was himself once charged with monitoring foreigners and consular officials. He served in Soviet Occupied Germany from 1985 until their pulling out upon the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Putin lost his job in 1991 during the KGB coup d’etat against then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.  It was then that he and his earlier mentor, Anatoly Sobchak, Mayor of St Petersburg, became reacquainted.

Political life beckoned. During his tenure in office Vladimir Putin was not to be bought. His enemies conceded Vladimir Putin’s unwavering integrity. Self-exiled arch rival Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky is cited by media as saying: “Putin never took bribes during his time in office.”

In 1996, he was invited by President Boris Yeltsin’s administration to serve as head of Russia’s Intelligence Service, now renamed the FSB. Appointed as Prime Minister in 1999 Vladimir Putin became the fifth head of government in 18 months.  Afterwards elected with 52.94 per cent of the vote he made an impression by demonstrating his no-nonsense approach to domestic terrorism. Faced down by Chechnya terrorists, Putin is on record as saying he would hunt down and kill militants ‘even when they were on the toilet’.  

Such was his popularity that he was to later win 71per cent of the peoples’ votes and had an approval rating of 80 per cent. The West has denigrated this achievement but they would, wouldn’t they. Superman had arrived and the rest is – not quite history.

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