45-year-old former KGB agent Vladimir Putin is plucked from obscurity out of the St. Petersburg local government apparatus by President Boris Yeltsin and named Deputy Chief of Staff. In June, he defends his PhD dissertation in “strategic planning” at St. Petersburg’s Mining Institute. Later, this document proves to have been plagiarized from a KGB translation of work by U.S. professors published many years earlier (as if nobody would notice, and in fact for quite a while nobody did).
In a second inexplicable move, Yeltsin names Putin head of the KGB (now called the FSB).
Less than four months after Putin takes over at the KGB, opposition Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova, the most prominent pro-democracy Kremlin critic in the nation, is murdered at her apartment building in St. Petersburg. Four months after that, Putin will play a key role in silencing the Russian Attorney General, Yury Skuratov, who was investigating high-level corruption in the Kremlin, by airing an illicit sex video involving Skuratov on national TV. Four months after the dust settles in the Skuratov affair, Putin will be named Prime Minister.
Completing a hat trick of bizarre spontaneous promotions, proud KGB spy Putin is named by Yeltsin Prime Minister of Russia. Almost immediately, Putin orders a massive bombing campaign against the tiny, defenseless breakaway republic of Chechnya, apparently seeing the reassertion of Russian power there as key to overall resurgence of Russia’s military and state security apparatus, his primary political objective. On August 26th, he’s forced to acknowledge the horrific consequences of the bombing. Hundreds of civilians are killed and tens of thousands are left homeless as civilian targets are attacked. World opinion begins to turn starkly against Russia, especially in Europe, very similarly to the manner in which it has polarized against U.S. President George Bush over Iraq. Putin’s poll numbers in Russia begin to slide.
An apartment building in the Pechatniki neighborhood of Moscow is blown up by a bomb. 94 are killed. Less than a week later a second bomb destroys a building in Moscow’s Kashirskoye neighborhood, killing 118. Days after that, a massive contingent of Russian soldiers is surrounding Chechnya as public opposition to the war evaporates. On October 1st, Putin declares Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov and his parliament illegitimate. Russian forces invade.
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