In spite of a series of disastrous setbacks in the early years of his presidency [...] Putin has emerged as the unchallenged strong man in the Kremlin
Putin came to power almost by accident. In 1999 he was the last man standing in a string of short-lived and unremarkable prime ministers who headed the Russian government in the dying days of Boris Yeltsin’s regime. "He was put there as an imitation of a strong man," says Arkady Ostrovsky, Russia editor of the Economist magazine. "He was supposed to fit the image, but not be the real thing. That was how he was sold to Yeltsin."