Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (Russian: Влади́мир Влади́мирович Пу́тин; IPA: [vɫɐˈdʲimʲɪr vɫɐˈdʲimʲɪrəvʲɪtɕ ˈputʲɪn] ( listen); born 7 October 1952) is a Russian politician who served as the second President of the Russian Federation. Putin is currently Prime Minister of Russia and as of the 2012 election, he is also the President-elect. Putin also serves as chairman of United Russia and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus. He became acting President on 31 December 1999, when president Boris Yeltsin resigned in a surprising move. Putin won the 2000 presidential election; in 2004 he was re-elected for a second term lasting until 7 May 2008.
Because of constitutionally mandated term limits, Putin was ineligible to run for a third consecutive presidential term. After the victory of his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, in the 2008 presidential elections, Putin was nominated by Medvedev to be Russia's Prime Minister; Putin took office on 8 May 2008 and a period of tandemocracy followed. In September 2011, Putin and Medvedev agreed he should seek a third, non-consecutive term in the 2012 presidential election, which he won in the first round on 4 March 2012.
Putin has overseen a return of political stability and economic progress to Russia, ending the crisis of the 1990s. He restored Russia's territorial integrity and established a strong "power vertical". During his presidency, the Russian economy grew for nine straight years, seeing GDP increase by 72% in PPP (sixfold in nominal), poverty decrease by more than 50%, and average monthly salaries increase from $80 to $640. These achievements have been ascribed by analysts to strong macroeconomic management, important fiscal policy reforms and a confluence of high oil prices, surging capital inflows and access to low-cost external financing.
During his presidency, Putin passed into law a flat income tax of 13%, a reduced profits tax, and new land and legal codes. His energy policy has affirmed Russia's position as an energy superpower. Major infrastructure projects which he endorsed have included the construction of several major export pipelines, including ESPO and Nord Stream, and the restoration of the nuclear industry in the country.
While the Putin presidency has been criticised by Western observers and domestic opposition as undemocratic, Putin's leadership has enjoyed considerable popularity in Russia since 2000 and continuously high approval ratings. In the media Putin often projects an outdoor, sporting, tough guy image, demonstrating his physical capabilities and taking part in unusual or dangerous activities, such as extreme sports and interaction with wild animals. A keen practitioner of martial arts and several times Champion of Leningrad in judo and sambo in his youth, Putin has played a major role in development of sport in Russia, notably, helping Sochi to win the bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics.