On this day 20 years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin began his rise of absolute power of the largest country in the world, which stretches from Eastern Europe to Asia, with a population of 145 million.
His origins in Moscow began as a bureaucrat in the Presidential Property Management Department. He later rose up the government ranks to become head of Russia’s domestic intelligence unit, the Federal Security Service (FSB), before being made prime minister by then Russian President Boris Yeltsin on August 9, 1999.
Putin’s popularity rose quickly as did his rise to power.
In the summer of 1999 a number of residential building terrorist bombings in cities all over Russia killed hundreds and froze the country in fear and paranoia.
The cities of Moscow, Buynaksk, and Volgodonsk were victims of planned bombings that killed more than 300 people and injured 800 in September 1999.
The public were bewildered at who was behind the attacks and what motivated the individual or group.
Russian authorities quickly placed the blame on Islamic terrorists and linked the motivation to Islamists mobilized in Chechnya.
Putin quickly directed Russia’s military forces to bomb the republic Chechnya.
“We will pursue terrorists everywhere,” said Putin at the time.
“If they are at the airport, in the airport. That means — pardon my language — that if they’re on the toilet, we will waste them out in the outhouse,” he added.
Russian forces nearly took full control of Chechnya by December 1999.
Six months after Yeltsin named Putin as prime minister, Yeltsin gave up the presidency and named Putin as President of Russia on December 31, 1999 as Putin’s popularity rose because of his handling of the terrorist attacks.
The Russian president’s popularity hasn’t remained as high in recent years mainly due to the economic conditions of the country and decline of quality of life standards.
Fifty percent of Russian workers earn less than $550 per a month, according to Russia’s State Statistics Service’s (Rosstat) biennial wage distribution data published last month.
In comparison, the average worker in the US, Russia’s global rival, earned an average of $3,600 last year per a month, according to data released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Putin’s current term as president ends in 2024. The 66-year old may be trying to find ways to hold on to his power.
In 2008, Putin returned to the role of prime minister to go around the Russian constitution’s term limit for presidents.
Analysts believe this kind of maneuver is unlikely but Putin may bring about another institution to maintain power.
“Some sort of collective body will be created to direct the country, and Putin will always remain the head,” said Gregory Bovt, a Kremlin analyst, on French TV.
“He will remain watching over the country. His task is to fulfill his historical mission,” Bovt said.