Putin won’t be giving up the reins of power entirely

March 1st, 2008 - 11:51 am ICT by admin  

By Ulf Mauder
Moscow, March 1 (DPA) Even at the end of his eight-year term in office, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s thirst for power is unquenched. Nevertheless, the 55-year-old Putin asserts that if power is addictive, he’s never felt any dependency. The former head of the Russian secret police has earned a reputation as a “national leader” and as a successful economic reformer.

He will continue those roles as prime minister under his handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, who is expected to win Sunday’s presidential election in Russia. “God has given me the strength for it,” said the one-time communist.

Putin, a passionate horseman, will not be giving up the reins of power entirely. When he posed in front of cameras topless in the summer of 2007 while fishing, the display of his muscular chest was not just proof of his vitality. The pictures were also a symbol of the growing self-confidence of Russia. That has come in useful, as Putin has conducted himself uncompromisingly on the subjects of Kosovo, US missile defence plans and energy deliveries.

In the West his hold on power often left the impression that he was increasingly an unpredictable and cool autocrat. US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently called him a “KGB man without a soul”. His retort: “A statesman should have above all else a head.”

People who meet the relatively short man often gush about his charm. “Obviously he’s a very intriguing figure in modern history,” said Dana Perino on the selection of Putin as Time magazine’s Person of the Year 2007.

In a quick-witted response to rumours that no Russian is as wealthy as he, Putin said, “That’s the truth. I am the richest person - in feelings.” He admitted to having some stock holdings, but he said all other claims were “pulled out of a nose and smeared on a piece of paper”.

When speaking with constituents, Putin, who grew up poor and later studied law, likes to show that he has the common touch himself and is a solid speaker. He learned to speak German while working for the KGB in East Germany.

Putin was born Dec 7, 1952, in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, to a metal worker and a cleaner. He defined himself through his work. He describes working like a “galley slave” in one of his jobs. He’s often accompanied by his black Labrador Koni, but seldom appears in public with his wife and two daughters. Putin likes to be behind the wheel of fast cars.

The cult of personality surrounding the decisive and disciplined president is large. Members of the opposition and critics can’t go along with his politics. They accuse him of having created a police state. What Putin refers to as “guided democracy” is what they call Putinism, defined as the regimentation of access to the media and elections for people who think differently. In speeches Putin berates Kremlin opponents within Russia as jackals or vengeful oligarchs that want Russia to crash into chaos.

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