Over the years, many governments, rivals, oligarchs and commentators have underestimated Vladimir Putin – often to their cost. When he came to power back in 1999, he was seen as simply a poodle, a temporary, technocratic figure as Mr Yeltsin’s prime minister with no political presence of his own. Some 13 years later, he is one of the longest serving leaders in the world.
Russia is no democratic paradise but by and large Mr Putin has avoided open conflicts and had begun to re-establish a position for Russia in the world – not quite the superpower it once was but rather as a country with a strong government that no one can afford to ignore. Read more