At the moment, Vladimir Putin has a lot of questions to answer. The Russian President, who in a series of unsettling and fast-paced developments, declared military operation in Ukraine on Thursday. In the political world, those who know Putin, had long predicted the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.(photo:@KremlinRussia_E/Twitter)
Russian President Vladimir Putin.(photo:@KremlinRussia_E/Twitter)IANS

Putin's scandalous love affair with unbridled power is world-known now. "Other countries who attempt to interfere would lead to consequences you have never seen," announced the President along with the attack on Ukraine, surprising those who did not yet know him as a world leader, as a person and as a President.

His stupendous rise to power 
The Russian President has been a polarising figure ever since he was first elected in 2000. His political timeline goes right back to the time when he joins the Committee for State Security (KGB) where he monitored the loyalty of Russian diplomats and was assigned to shadow foreign visitors. After serving KGB for 16 long years, he became involved in politics directly.

A law graduate, Putin also has a black belt in judo. In 2012, the year when Putin won third term as President, critics raised suspicion on the election results. Irrespective of complaints, Putin was sworn in under tight security as hundreds of protestors were detained by the police.

His biggest opponent was poisoned with a Russian nerve agent

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.Reuters

Alexei Navalny. The 44-year-old lawyer and anti-corruption activist is inarguably Putin's most challenging opponent. Navalny gained international prominence when he was barred from running against Putin in presidential election in 2018. The Central Electoral Commission voted him ineligible because of a corruption scandal which Navalny says is politically motivated.

Navalny was even poisoned during an internal flight in Siberia in 2020. He had to spend three weeks on the ventilator. European experts later confirmed that he had been poisoned with a lethal Russian nerve agent called Novichok. Ukraine crisis, his supporters claim, has also overshadowed the fresh trial under which Navalny's prison sentence has been extended to 15 years.

Putin's opponents disappear and how?

It was only in June of last year that Putin found himself questioned over the mysterious disappearance of his opponents. That's not it, repeatedly his opponents are either dead, jailed or imprisoned. "Look at the American streets. People are getting killed there, including those who are leading various political organizations," he said at the press conference after meeting his US counterpart Joe Biden at a summit in Geneva.

When Putin voted himself to power till 2036

Russia's Constitution limits a President from serving more than two consecutive terms. In 2020, Putin shook up the country and by that measure the world, by calling for constitutional changes that would give him the right to hold onto power beyond 2024. Technically speaking, it is and would have been his last term as Russian President. His hold on power in Russia is unrivalled, built over last 20 years of ruling the country as President and Prime Minister. In 2021, he finally signed a law that can keep him in office in the Kremlin until 2036.

What does he want from Ukraine?

Why would Putin invade Ukraine's capital Kyiv and other major cities? By launching missile attacks and airstrikes Ukraine, Putin has gambled recklessly with his decision as he now looks at fresh and unprecedented sanctions from U.S and Europe. But why would he do that?

In his defence...

After denying for months and years at end that he planned on launching an attack on Ukraine, Putin finally did launch the invasion by land, air and sea. Attacks as of Friday left 137 military personnel and civilians dead and hundreds wounded. In a television address, the Russian President said that he launched the special military operation, to "protect people, including Russian citizens who had been subjected to 'genocide' in Ukraine."

Putin also called Ukraine an "illegimitate state as its land historically belongs to Russia." The West has since long called Putin's accusations as "absurd propaganda." He has also gone further to call Ukraine an "artificial creation carved from Russia" by Russian enemies. He has also called Ukraine a "puppet of the West."

Putin and his palace

Putin's personal life has been as highly guarded as his political life has been controversial. Last month, almost 500 pictures of Putin's alleged palace went viral on social media. Published by Alexei Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation, the photographs were just an extension of the earlier sketches released. However, the state media managed dismissing the initial blueprint of the mansion as "cartoons." This time, the full-fledged pictures that were released were taken during the building's construction.

The luxurious £1bn palace built for Putin's personal use houses a marble swimming pool ornamented with busts of Greek Gods, a hookah lounge with a pole bar for dancing, a wine cellar, an in-house thteare, ice-hockey rink and no fly zone.

Russian interference in US presidential election

In 2016, it is widely reported that wide ranging Russians interfered and probed state voter database. Russia went all out in its interference to support Trump's and hack Hillary Clinton's campaign. They released politically damaging information on the internet, spread propaganda on all platforms of social media and staged rallies in several states.

FBI even alerted states to the threat about two months before the 2016 election. In January 2017, the government issued its first report on election interference and blamed Russia for the hacks. In July 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller backed up the US intelligence that 12 Russian nationals hacked into the US elections systems.

His divorced wife, daughters and personal life

For somebody who has managed keeping his personal life entirely out of the limelight, it came as a surprise when a once viral video shows Putin going to the washroom with as many as six bodyguards. The video is from the Ukraine Summit in Paris which Putin attended.

As for his family, Putin's first wife Lyudmila Shkrebneva divorced him in 2013, amdist rumours of a girlfriend. He has two daughters from his ex-wife that he never talks about. There are also unconfirmed rumours and speculations of another daughter born in 2015 from his alleged girlfriend.

Dissent back home grows louder

In January last year, Moscow saw one of the decade's biggest protests in support of the jailed leader Alexei Navalny. Tens of thousands of protestors took to streets across the country as police clashed with demonstrators and arrested nearly 3,500 protestors.

Unfavourable news in the Western media finally pushed the administration to release a statement but only to downplay the scale of anti-Putin sentiment and slogans that shouted, "Putin, go away," "Russia will be free." The sentiments resonate world over now.