How Did Putin Come to Power and How Long Will He Be President?

Mohit Oberoi, CFA - Author

Mar. 3 2022, Published 8:18 a.m. ET

Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently the most controversial political leader. Countries across the world are watching his actions as he has pushed Europe into its worst conflict since World War II. How did Putin come to power and how long will he be president?

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To deter Putin, the West has retaliated with multiple sanctions. However, the sanctions will have more of a long-term impact and Russia has been increasing the attacks in Ukraine. Hundreds of lives are being lost daily and the world continues to pay for Putin’s belligerence in the form of higher energy and metal prices.

When did Putin come to power?

Putin is an ex-KGB spy with an immense sense of nationalism. He sees the Soviet Union’s collapse and the years thereafter as a national humiliation. The KGB was dissolved after the Soviet Union’s collapse and Putin was looking for an alternate career. Putin started as a deputy to Leningrad’s first democratically elected mayor Anatoly Sobchak.

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He moved to Moscow in 1996 and became a deputy to the Kremlin’s chief administrator Pavel Borodin. In 1998, he was made the chief of Russia’s FSB (Federal Security Service), which is a successor to the KGB.

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Putin became the Russian prime minister in 1999.

In 1999, Russia was governed by Boris Yeltsin. By the end of the 20th century, Yeltsin was ailing and aging. He was looking for a successor and it was reportedly Roman Abramovich who recommended Putin’s name to Yeltsin.

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Abramovich went on to own the Chelsea Football Club in the U.K. However, amid the sanctions on Russian oligarchs, he's looking to sell the club as well as his other London properties.

Coming back to Putin, Yeltsin made him the prime minister in 1999. By the end of the year, he named Putin as his successor and the country’s next president. In the 2020 Russian presidential election, Putin was elected as the president with 53 percent of the votes.

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Putin has been governing Russia ever since.

Putin’s becoming the Russian president was a watershed moment for the country and he has been governing the fragile democracy ever since. Putin won the 2004 election as well and was the president until 2008. However, in 2008, the constitutional limit on presidential terms meant that Putin couldn't be the president for the third consecutive time.

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Putin was the Russian prime minister between 2008 and 2012.

In 2008, Putin’s long-time ally Dmitry Medvedev ran for the president, and like Putin in his previous term, he won by a good majority. Medvedev made Putin his prime minister and also extended the president’s term to six years. After Medvedev left office, Putin again contested the 2012 presidential election and won. He was re-elected in 2018 and will hold the post until 2024.

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How long can Putin be Russia’s president?

Russia amended its constitution in 2020, which allows Putin to seek two more terms. Simply put, Putin can now run again in 2024 and 2030 and can be the Russian president until 2036. In order to bring legitimacy to the constitutional changes, Putin also went in for a referendum where the majority voted for the changes.

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For Putin to leave office, he either has to quit on his own or under pressure from the country’s citizens and the opposition. The chances of any of these happening look bleak considering the clampdown on dissenting voices including the alleged poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Putin was born in 1952 and would be 72 when the elections take place in 2024. Age doesn't look like a deterrent either. However, the world is questioning Putin's health, physical and mental, amid the Ukraine invasion.


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