Vladimir Putin is the current President of Russia. He won a third term in 2012 amid an unprecedented wave of street protests stemming from allegations of widespread vote-rigging in the parliamentary election. Putin previously served as President (2000-2008) and Prime Minister (1999-2000, 2008-2012) of Russia. He served as an officer in the KGB for 16 years, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before retiring to enter politics. Putin joined the administration of President Boris Yeltsin in 1996, and was named Acting President in 1999 when Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned. Many of Putin’s actions are regarded by the domestic opposition and foreign observers as undemocratic. He has cultivated a strongman image (including black belts in Taekwondo and judo) and is a pop icon in Russia with many commercial products named after him. Putin was born on this day in 1952.
Note: In 2014, Russia was excluded from the G8 group as a result of its annexation of Crimea, Ukraine. Earlier in the year, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, proved to be the most expensive Olympic Games ever, with a wildly overrun budget of $51 billion. The lead-up to the Olympics was marked by controversies over Russia’s problems, including organized crime, state corruption, embezzlement, kickbacks, Putin’s anti-gay campaign, and terrorist threats tied to the insurgency in the North Caucasus. Thank goodness for Putinka vodka, I guess.