Vladimir Putin: Russia's action man president

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a judo black belt, appears to symbolise two of the martial art’s key qualities – guile and aggression.

His swift military interventions in both Ukraine, annexing Crimea in March 2014, and Syria, bombing anti-government rebels in a move that bolstered Syrian government forces, stunned many observers.

Mr Putin, 67, has made no secret of his determination to reassert Russian power after years of perceived humiliation by the US and its Nato allies.

He has been in power since 2000 – the longest-serving Kremlin leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who died in 1953. Mr Putin was re-elected for six years in 2018.

A controversial national vote on constitutional reforms has now given him the opportunity to stay in power beyond his current fourth term, which ends in 2024. He could remain in the Kremlin until 2036, with this new legal basis.

There was no independent scrutiny of the week-long voting, and independent monitoring group Golos called it “a PR exercise” with many violations.

The Trump connection

US prosecutors accuse a longstanding Putin ally – oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin – of orchestrating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election to favour Donald Trump.

The alleged meddling – mainly on social media – prompted the US to impose more sanctions on officials close to Mr Putin.

After a far-reaching inquiry, US special counsel Robert Mueller indicted more than 30 people, including four…

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