Vladimir Putin has been at the centre of Russian life over a decade.But what do we really know about Putin, an ex-KGB spy who has had a murky rise to power and has been accused of huge crimes?
As Russia goes to the polls on Sunday, we thought it time to take a closer look at Putin, a man who may just be both the most important, and most secretive, in the world.
Many now suspect that the past 4 years, during which time he was Prime Minister and Dimitry Medvedev was President, were a mere constitutional formality.
Putin is hoping to extend the presidential terms so they last 6 years, which would mean two terms would be 12 years.
That would mean he effectively spends 24 years in power.
Putin claimed today that he had not made a decision if he would run in 2018, the New York Times reports.
Overall, Russians have appeared happy with Putin. He won 53% of the vote in 2000, 73% in 2004, and his ally Medvedev won 70% in 2008.
Last year Russia ranked 143rd, joint with Nigeria and Uganda, on Transparency International's annual list of the 182 most corrupt nations.
This is a long way from his humble beginnings. He grew up in a shared apartment in Leningrad, now St Petersburg, the Russian city ravaged by World War Two.
By most accounts, his time in the KGB was unremarkable.
The report, released last year, makes sense in line with Putin's own admissions that his relationship with women is a little odd.
In recent years there have been a variety of rumours about his infidelities, and allegations that his wife has been committed to a mental hospital.
After the Soviet Union fell, he went to work for Anatoly Sobchak, who would become the mayor of St Petersburg.
Sobchak was both a reformer and a conservative, much like Putin himself.
The St Petersburg mayor was later forced to flee Russia after a criminal investigation was launched against him in 1997. Sobchak later returned to Russia and became an early political supporter of Putin, but he died in 2000 in an incident many consider to be suspicious.
Sobchak's daughter Kseniya, often referred to as Russia's 'Paris Hilton', has become a stern critic of Putin.
There has been a variety of doubts cast on the official story of how Sobchak and Putin met, and Putin's story about quitting the KGB is inconsistent.
In her new book, the Man Without A Face, Russian journalist Masha Gessen talks to one former KGB agent who alleges that a senior KGB officer visited Putin before he left East Germany. Why would a KGB officer travel to visit a relatively minor like Putin? Perhaps to give him a new mission.
CONSPIRACY THEORY 2: A series of apartment bombings organised by Russia's secret service swept Putin into the president's office.
In 1999, a series of apartment bombings in Russia killed 224 people. Russia was terrified -- the bombs went off in crowded buildings in the middle of the night, killing families as they slept.
Putin, then prime minister, pledged direct action against the Chechen rebels who were thought to be behind the attacks, pledging to wipe them out even 'in the outhouse'. He was soon in the president's office with 53 per cent of the vote.
However, one event made many reconsider the attacks.
On 22nd September 2009 the city of Ryazan, an attack was apparently halted by an eagle-eyed member of the public, who was also able to give descriptions of two people who appeare to have planted explosives. A bomb squad came in and found tested the substances, declaring them explosives and defusing them.
Two days later the FSB (the successor to the KGB) announced that the explosives were in fact sugar and that the bombing attempt was just a training exercise committed by the agency.
Ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, died in London from radiation poisoning in 2006.
Litvenchenko's book, Blowing Up Russia, was one of the most complete investigations on the apartment bombings (it is banned in Russia).
The British police are still trying to get the two men suspected of poisoning him extradited, but Russian authorities have been uncooperative.
In the west, much of Putin's reputation is built upon his frequent publicity stunts, apparently designed to show off his masculine strength.
He's been photographed topless multiple times, discovered Greek urns while scuba diving, and even sang jazz standards with Goldie Hawn and Kevin Costner.
Putin 'wants to be understood, but he can't understand why we don't understand him,' I, Putin director Hubert Seipel told Der Spiegel.
'It also took me a while to gradually understand what makes him tick. Still, I can't say that I disliked him as a human being.'
Its unclear right now whether he will respond to the growing opposition movement with liberalization — or restriction.
Tens of thousands of Russians are planning to protest on Monday regardless.
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