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Vladimir Putin is about to mark 20 years of leading his country as president and prime minister, navigating geopolitical crises and major sporting events.

Bill Clinton was in the White House when the former KGB agent first became Russia’s president on 31 December 1999. In the 20 years since, there have been three more US presidents and five UK prime ministers.

From global conflicts and domestic scandals to sporting triumphs and propaganda photos, we look at the images that define Mr Putin’s two decades in power.

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Vladimir Putin was appointed prime minister in August 1999 before taking over from Boris Yeltsin as president on 31 December

The former KGB officer had already been appointed prime minister when Russia launched the second Chechen war in October 1999, in response to a series of deadly bombings on apartment blocks.

The start of his presidency was shaped by the conflict in Russia’s restive southern republic. Russian forces besieged the Chechen capital, Grozny. In 2003, the UN described Grozny as the most destroyed city on Earth in the wake of the siege.

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Mr Putin flew to Chechnya in March 2000, months after launching the second Chechen war

For years Russia was hit by militants attacks such as the 2004 Beslan school siege in which 330 people died, most of them children.

President Putin did not officially end combat missions in Chechnya until 2009.

Putin and cabinet members observe a minute of silence in 2004 after the Beslan school siegeImage copyright
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Russia’s cabinet members observe a minute of silence in September 2004 after the Beslan school siege, in which militants killed more than 330 people

Mr Putin was confirmed in office in presidential elections in March 2000, and within months was at the centre of a PR crisis.

The Kursk submarine disaster left 118 crew members dead.

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Mr Putin met the family of the Kursk submarine commander but was sharply criticised at the time for his response to the disaster

When the Kursk sank in August 2000, it took days for Russia to inform relatives and the president initially did not return home from his Black Sea holiday.

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US President George W Bush invited Mr Putin for a state visit in 2001. The pair travelled to Mr Bush’s home state of Texas during the trip

In his first decade in office, Vladimir Putin was on generally good terms with Western leaders despite his criticism of their foreign policy,

Putin and Berlusconi in warm winter outfits on a trip to a wildlife preserve north of Moscow in 2003Image copyright
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Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (right) visited Russia in 2003 to discuss the situation in Iraq

Queen Elizabeth II and Vladimir Putin in a carriage in 2003Image copyright
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And the Queen invited Mr Putin for a state visit in 2003 – the first by a Russian leader since 1874

Russia hosted its first G8 summit in 2006, confirming its membership of the economic group.

From left to right: Angela Merkel, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Putin and George W BushImage copyright
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Angela Merkel, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Putin and George W Bush stand for a photo at the 2006 G8 summit in St Petersburg

Under Russia’s constitution, Mr Putin could not stay on as president for a third consecutive term, so in 2008 became prime minister for four years.

Few saw President Dmitry Medvedev as anything more than a Putin protege standing in for his boss.

Vladimir Putin (2nd L) looks at a man injured during fighting in South Ossetia during a visit to a field hospital in Vladikavkaz, the provincial capital of the region of North OssetiaImage copyright
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As prime minister, Mr Putin visited casualties when war broke out with Georgia

When Georgia sent its forces to regain control of the breakaway region of South Ossetia in 2008, Russia invaded deep into Georgia.

The brief, August war was an alarm call to the West, but it was Russia’s move into eastern Ukraine in 2014 that turned Mr Putin’s relations with Western leaders sour.

Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine prompted EU and US sanctions and brought a suspension of its membership of the G8.

Putin on a big screen announcing the annexation of CrimeaImage copyright
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President Putin’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 brought him a spike in the opinion polls

Putin with a motorcycle gang in Crimea, 2019Image copyright
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When Mr Putin attended a motorcycle rally in annexed Crimea in August 2019, Ukraine said it was a “blatant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty”

Volodymyr Zelensky, Emanuel Macron, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel in Paris in December 2019Image copyright
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Talks resumed this month, five years after the start of the conflict in Ukraine, with President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a bid to end the fighting

Four years into the Syrian civil war, Russia intervened to back its ally, President Bashar al-Assad, whose government was on the brink of collapse. Mr Putin’s decision to send in Russian planes and armour changed the balance of power on the ground.

Putin with Bashar al-Assad in 2017Image copyright
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Mr Putin’s backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad changed the course of the Syrian Civil War

After Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election in 2016, US intelligence services concluded that Russia had interfered in the campaign.

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US intelligence services say that Russia interfered in the 2016 US election

And in 2018, the UK accused Russia of poisoning its former military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

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Relations with the UK’s then Prime Minister, Theresa May, were clearly tense after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal

Throughout his time in office the Russian president has sought to control his image and that of his country. A number of photos released by the leader over the years have tried to show him as a strong man.

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A topless Vladimir Putin walking with a sniper rifle near the border with Mongolia in 2007

Putin frolicking in the snow with his dogs, 2013Image copyright
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Mr Putin has also showed his fuzzy side, releasing photos in 2013 of himself playing in the snow with his dogs Buffy and Yume

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He has also tried to showcase his sporting ability, taking part in games of ice hockey and judo matches during his presidency

He has also sought to boost Russia’s sporting profile by hosting the Winter Olympics in 2014 and the World Cup in 2018.

The Sochi Games were a success but the repercussions of a doping scandal continue to be felt.

The World Anti-Doping Agency handed Russia a four year ban from all major sports event last week. A 2015 report said Russia had operated what amounted to a state-sponsored doping programme in track and field athletics. This month it was found to have tampered with laboratory data provided in January.

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President Putin played a prominent role in Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup

While the 2018 Fifa World Cup was an international success, the doping scandal means Russia will not be able to take part in the next competition, in Qatar in 2022.

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