Dec 20, 2007
Putin named Time's Person of the Year
Russian President led country back to table of world power, says magazine
FIRM LINE: Mr Putin, seen here fishing in the Yenisei River of Russia's Tuva region, has fostered a tough-guy image. -- PHOTO: AFP
NEW YORK - RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin was named Time magazine's 'Person of the Year' for 2007 yesterday for bringing his country 'roaring back to the table of world power'.
Mr Putin, a 55-year-old former KGB official, will appear on the cover of Time as the person the editors believe had the greatest impact on events this year, for better or worse.
'He's not a good guy, but he's done extraordinary things,' said Time managing editor Richard Stengel, who announced Mr Putin's selection on NBC's Today Show.
'He's a new czar of Russia and he's dangerous in the sense that he doesn't care about civil liberties; he doesn't care about free speech; he cares about stability. But stability is what Russia needed and that's why Russians adore him.'
The Russian President beat several rivals for the Time distinction. Former US vice-president Al Gore, British author J.K. Rowling, Chinese President Hu Jintao and US commander in Iraq David Petraeus were named runners-up in that order.
The choice came days after Mr Putin announced a plan to hold on to power after his term ends.
On Monday, he said that he would serve as prime minister if his close ally Dmitry Medvedev wins next year's presidential vote.
Born in October 1952 in St Petersburg, then called Leningrad, Mr Putin served as a KGB spy in East Germany.
He rose to head the KGB's successor organisation FSB before being chosen as prime minister by late president Boris Yeltsin in August 1999. Mr Putin took over as acting president when Mr Yeltsin stepped down in December 1999.
He was elected president in March 2000 after a huge public relations campaign to build a profile for the relative unknown.
Since then, Mr Putin has overseen a steady concentration of power within the Kremlin walls, sidelining the political opposition and imposing tight control on the media. This has caused his Western critics to question his democratic credentials.
Two of his outspoken critics, journalist Anna Politkovskaya and former spy Alexander Litvinenko, were murdered last year. That raised concerns in Russia about the stability Mr Putin has been credited with enforcing after the chaos of the 1990s.
But Mr Putin has played to his power base in the security forces and military by fostering a tough-guy image. He has bluntly told Western governments to keep their 'snotty noses' out of Russia's affairs.
Delivering on a vow he made when first elected president in 2000, he crushed the Chechen rebellion, though sporadic attacks continue on Russian forces.
His years in power have been marked by a significant rise in living standards, helped by soaring oil prices, but large sections of the population still live in poverty.
Mr Putin has prided himself on bringing stability and predictability to Russia after the zig-zags of the Yeltsin years. He described the demise of the Soviet Union as 'the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century'.
Polls have shown that talking tough about Russia standing up to foreigners strikes a chord with millions of Russians who yearn for the Soviet Union's once mighty superpower status.
REUTERS, ASSOCIATED PRESS