Vladimir Putin is a Russian politician who has served as the President of Russia since 2012. Prior to that, he served as the Prime Minister of Russia from 1999-2000 and as the President of Russia from 2000-2008.
Putin was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1952. He grew up in a communal apartment and his father was a factory foreman. Putin studied law at Leningrad State University and joined the KGB, the Soviet Union's security agency, upon graduation. He served as a foreign intelligence officer until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, at which point he returned to St. Petersburg and entered politics.
In St. Petersburg, Putin quickly rose through the ranks and became a close ally of the city's mayor, Anatoly Sobchak. When Sobchak lost re-election in 1996, Putin moved to Moscow and joined the administration of President Boris Yeltsin. He served as the Deputy Chief of Presidential Staff, the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) - the KGB's successor agency - and as the Secretary of the Security Council.
In 1999, Yeltsin appointed Putin as the Prime Minister of Russia, and when Yeltsin resigned on the last day of 1999, Putin became the acting President of Russia. He was later elected to the presidency in his own right in 2000.
As President, Putin took a number of steps to assert Russian influence both domestically and internationally. He strengthened the central government's control over the regions and the media, and he worked to rebuild the Russian military. He also took a more assertive stance on foreign policy, particularly with regard to the United States.
One of the most significant events of Putin's presidency was the invasion of the Republic of Georgia in 2008. The conflict, which centered around the breakaway region of South Ossetia, resulted in a brief war and the recognition of South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent states by Russia. The invasion was widely condemned by the international community, and it strained Russia's relations with the West.
After serving two terms as President, Putin was required by the Russian Constitution to step down. However, he continued to wield significant influence in Russian politics, and in 2012 he was elected President again. Since returning to the presidency, Putin has faced criticism for his government's handling of the conflict in Ukraine, its annexation of Crimea, and its involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In addition to his political career, Putin is also known for his personal life. He is an avid sportsman and has been seen participating in a number of activities including judo, ice hockey, and horseback riding. He is also known for his strongman image, and he has been featured in a number of staged events and photo ops showcasing his physical prowess.
Despite criticism from the international community and allegations of corruption and human rights abuses, Putin remains a popular figure in Russia. His leadership style has been described as authoritarian, and he has been accused of suppressing dissent and manipulating elections. However, his domestic approval ratings remain high, and he is widely expected to run for and win another term as President in the upcoming elections.