Russian President Vladimir Putin marks 20 years in power

MOSCOW, Russia (NBC) – As Russian President Vladimir Putin marks two decades in power, he boasts about his achievements but remains coy about his political future, a reticence that fuels wild speculation about his intentions.

Putin is Russia’s longest-serving leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

The Russian leader points at the revival of Russia’s global clout highlighted by a Syria campaign, industrial modernization, booming agricultural exports and a resurgent military as key results of his tenure that began on December 31st, 1999.

On that day, Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, abruptly stepped down and named the former KGB officer his successor, paving way for his election three months later.

Critics accuse Putin of rolling back the nation’s post-Soviet freedoms to establish tight control over the political scene, marginalize the opposition and stifle critical media.

They hold him responsible for tensions with the West after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, a move that bolstered his approval ratings, but triggered bruising U.S. and European sanctions.

Kremlin watchers have been busy trying to predict what will happen after Putin’s current six-year term ends in 2024. They point at various options, but agree on one thing: Putin will likely stay at the helm.

Andrei Kolesnikov is a researcher with the Carnegie Moscow Center he said, “Putin stopped the normal development of Russia as a normal market economy and a normal political democracy.”

Kolesnikov added, “Russia under Putin isn’t a global player, it’s a global spoiler. Here is a great difference between these two functions. He’s spoiling everything around him. He’s noticeable as a real player and influencer of anything. Nobody hears him properly.”

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