Who is the real Mr Putin? Meet the judo fighter who worked for the KGB

Updated: Feb 23, 2022, 05:00 PM(IST)

Early in his life, Putin was fascinated with martial arts. Putin has mentioned several times that he wants to restore Russia's greatness.

Putin loved outdoor activities in his youth

Russia's president was born in Leningrad on October 7, 1952, to a working-class family. Putin's father worked for the Communist Party.

Early in his life, Putin was fascinated with martial arts. He learnt Judo and sambo as he became a top fighter in Leningrad. He is said to have loved outdoor activities.

(Photo Courtesy: Kremlin website)


Putin joined KGB

Putin later joined the KGB, the dreaded Soviet spy agency. He is believed to have recruited east German spies for the former Soviet Union during the Cold War in the 80s amid tensions with the US.

In the 1990s, Putin was the director of the Russian Federal Security Service and then became the head of the Russian government as Yeltsin resigned in 1999.

Putin has mentioned several times that he wants to restore Russia's greatness.

(Photo Courtesy: Kremlin website)


'Greatest geopolitical catastrophe'

Putin had described the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union as the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the twentieth century.

In 2006, investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a critic of rights abuses in Chechnya was found murdered in Moscow on Putin's birthday. 

Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko died in London that same year after being poisoned with a radioactive substance. 

A British inquiry years later concluded he was killed by Russian spies.


Putin's family

President Putin had studied law at Saint Petersburg University during the 70s. His thesis was titled: "The Most Favored Nation Trading Principle in International Law".

The Russian president married a woman named Lyudmila Shkrebneva in 1983 and has two children - Maria and Katerina. He is widely believed to keep his kids off media glare with very little known about his kids. Both his wife and kids lived with Putin when he was posted in Dresden, Germany during the 1980s.

Maria was born in 1985 and Katerina was born the following year.


Putin & Chechen terrorists

During an economic crisis in 1999, Boris Yeltsin named little-known security chief Vladimir Putin as his fifth acting prime minister and in less than a year he said he wanted Putin to succeed him as president. 

In the following weeks, apartment bombings across Russia killed more than 300 people which Putin blamed on Chechen terrorists. 

His popularity was boosted by his tough response which included the aerial bombing of parts of Chechnya and an assault to recapture the breakaway southern province. 

Some Kremlin critics questioned if Chechen terrorists were really to blame for the apartment bombings.


Putin's image

Putin split with Lyudmila in 2013. They formally split in 2014. Putin has shrewdly cultivated an image of protector of the nation. He has often come down hard on his opponents including Alexei Navalny who is currently in jail.

Putin's regime has also been accused of interference in elections of other countries including the US polls in 2016.

Forbes Magazine has named Putin as the "world's most powerful person" on many occasions. 

Last year the Russian president had signed a law allowing him to serve for two more terms which means he could remain in power potentially till 2036.

(Photo Courtesy: Kremlin)


Putin returns as president

During a speech in Munich in 2007, Putin lashed out at the United States, accusing Washington of the "almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations."

Constitutional limits on him serving more than two consecutive presidential terms saw Putin becoming prime minister after his ally, Dmitry Medvedev became president in 2008

In 2008, Russia fought and won a short war with Georgia as it lost two breakaway regions that are garrisoned with Russian troops. 

Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, winning re-election with over 60 per cent of the vote after a decision to extend presidential terms to six from four years. 

Large scale anti-Putin protests took place before and after the vote with critics alleging voter fraud. 


Putin's law

In 2002, Chechen militants took more than 800 people hostage at a Moscow theatre. 

Special forces ended the siege but used poison gas in the process which killed many hostages. 

Oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested and charged with fraud in 2003. He was later found guilty and jailed in a case his supporters said was punishment for his meddling in politics. 

He was only released in 2013 after Putin pardoned him. 


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