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Ex-KGB agent vs former TV comic
Vladimir PutinRussian President Vladimir Putin announced what the West had been predicting for weeks. He launched an invasion on Ukraine, sending his...
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced what the West had been predicting for weeks. He launched an invasion on Ukraine, sending his forces by land, air and sea to the neighbouring country.
Born in 1952 in Saint Petersburg, Putin joined Russian secret agency KGB in 1975 and served as an officer till 1990. After the fall of the Soviet Union, he was employed by the Kremlin.
Putin served as Prime Minister of Russia for one year (in 1999) during Boris Yeltsin's presidency and ascended to the highest office in 2000. He has remained in power since then.
Since Europe largely depends on gas supply from Russia, this gives Putin a huge international influence. State-owned Gazprom is one of European Union's (EU's) largest suppliers.
Since Russian constitution limits the number of terms a president can serve to two, Putin swapped places with Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev.
He was re-elected President in 2012, and just two years into office, annexed Crimea. Nearly eight years after that, Putin ordered the attack on Ukraine. Missiles rained down on Ukraine as columns of troops poured across its borders.
Putin has been voted the world's most powerful person four times between 2013 and 2016. In 2017, he was accused of interfering in the US presidential election, which was won by Donald Trump. Both Putin and Trump have denied the allegations.
In March 2018, Putin was re-elected for fourth term as Russian President.
He was the comic from Ukrainian TV who implausibly became president. But Volodymyr Zelensky is now heading a nation under attack.
The fresh-faced 44-year-old became president of Ukraine in time to witness the gravest standoff between the Kremlin and Western powers since the end of the Cold War more than three decades ago.
He watched Russia surround his country with more than 150,000 soldiers, despite calls from Washington and others to back off.
He watched as Russia declared two rebels held republics in the east -- Donetsk and Lugansk -- independent, a dramatic escalation of the standoff.
And then on Thursday, he watched as Russia launched an all-out attack, with explosions heard across the country in the early morning hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed a "military operation". Zelensky quickly implemented martial law and appealed to his Western allies, calling for European unity after speaking with US President Joe Biden and France's Emmanuel Macron. Zelensky ran for president seemingly as a joke in 2019.
He was catapulted to fame by playing a foul-mouthed school teacher on TV who became president after one of his students filmed his profane rant against corruption and posted it online.
The evening comedy show became a huge hit just as the country was gripped by cataclysmic change.
Ukrainians watched the president on the comedy show make crude jokes to his wife and pedal to work with a startled look of panic.