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Media captionAtypical Russians have taken to interesting on to Putin to unravel their issues

By means of the ages, Russian rulers have gained energy in numerous methods.

For tsars it was by delivery; Vladimir Lenin via revolution; normal secretaries of the Soviet Communist Celebration by climbing up the celebration ladder to the politburo and awaiting their flip for the highest job.

However 20 years in the past, Vladimir Putin was handed energy on a Kremlin plate. The previous officer of the KGB – Russia’s secret service – was handpicked by President Boris Yeltsin and his inside circle to steer Russia into the 21st Century.

However why Mr Putin?

The ‘sensible deputy’

Valentin Yumashev performed a key function in Vladimir Putin turning into president of Russia. The previous journalist turned Kremlin official hardly ever offers interviews, however he agreed to fulfill me and inform his story.

Mr Yumashev was one in all Boris Yeltsin’s most trusted aides – he went on to marry Mr Yeltsin’s daughter, Tatyana. As Mr Yeltsin’s chief of employees, in 1997 he gave Mr Putin his first job within the Kremlin.

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“Yeltsin’s outgoing administration chief, Anatoly Chubais, informed me he knew a robust supervisor who’d make a great deputy for me,” Mr Yumashev remembers.

“He launched me to Vladimir Putin and we started working collectively. I seen instantly Putin’s unbelievable work. He was sensible at formulating concepts, at analysing and arguing his case.”

Was there a second, I ask, while you thought this man may very well be president?

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Mr Putin, seen right here on the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow in 2019, is a former KGB officer

“Yeltsin had a number of candidates in thoughts, like Boris Nemtsov, Sergei Stepashin and Nikolai Aksenenko. Yeltsin and I talked loads about doable successors. At one level we mentioned Putin.

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“Yeltsin requested me: ‘What do you concentrate on Putin?’ I believe he is an outstanding candidate, I replied. I believe you must contemplate him. It is clear from the way in which he does his job that he is prepared for harder duties.”

Did Putin’s KGB previous put him off?

“Plenty of KGB brokers, like Putin, had left the organisation, realising it was discredited. The truth that he was ex-KGB meant nothing. Putin had proven himself to be a liberal and a democrat, who wished to proceed market reforms.”

The key succession

In August 1999, Boris Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin prime minister. It was a transparent signal that President Yeltsin was making ready Mr Putin for the Kremlin.

Mr Yeltsin was not resulting from depart workplace for one more 12 months, however in December 1999 he took the shock resolution to go early.

“Three days earlier than New 12 months, Yeltsin summoned Putin to his nation residence. He requested me to be current, and his new chief of employees, Alexander Voloshin. He informed Putin that he would not dangle round till July. He’d resign on 31 December.

“Solely a tiny group of individuals knew: me, Voloshin, Putin and Yeltsin’s daughter Tatyana. Yeltsin did not even inform his spouse.”

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Mr Yumashev was entrusted with writing Yeltsin’s resignation speech.

“It was a tough speech to put in writing. It was clear the textual content would go down in historical past. The message was essential. That is why I wrote the well-known line ‘Forgive me’.

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“Russians had suffered such shock and stress throughout the 1990s. Yeltsin had to talk about this.”

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Media captionValentin Yumashev on how Putin was given the ability to steer Russia

On New 12 months’s Eve 1999, Boris Yeltsin recorded his last TV deal with within the Kremlin.

“It got here as a shock to everybody current. Besides me, who’d written the speech. Folks burst into tears. It was an emotional second.

“Nevertheless it was essential that the information did not leak. There have been nonetheless 4 hours earlier than the official announcement. So, everybody within the room had been locked in. They weren’t allowed to depart. I took the tape and drove to the TV station. The speech was broadcast at noon.”

Vladimir Putin grew to become performing president. Three months later, he gained the election.

A member of ‘The Household’?

Valentin Yumashev is also known as a member of “The Household”: Boris Yeltsin’s inside circle that, allegedly, exerted affect over him in direction of the tip of the 1990s.

Mr Yumashev dismisses “The Household” as “a fable, an invention”.

However there’s little doubt that throughout the 1990s, with President Yeltsin in failing well being, the Kremlin chief positioned his belief, more and more, in a slender family, pals and enterprise figures.

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Boris Yeltsin (L) and Mr Putin at a Victory Day parade in Moscow’s Crimson Sq. in Could 2000

“Putin’s entourage would not exert affect like this,” explains political scientist Valery Solovei.

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“There are two classes of individuals Putin leans in direction of: childhood pals, just like the Rotenberg brothers and people who served within the Soviet KGB.

“However he would not overestimate their loyalty. Yeltsin trusted members of his household. Putin trusts no-one.”

‘No regrets – Russians belief Putin’

Mr Putin has remained in energy, as president or prime minister, for 20 years. In that point, he has constructed a system of energy that revolves round him. Underneath his watch, Russia has grow to be an more and more authoritarian state, with fewer democratic rights and freedoms.

“Yeltsin believed he had a mission, and so does Putin,” Mr Solovei says. “Yeltsin noticed himself as Moses: he wished to steer his nation out of its communist slavery.

“Putin’s mission is to return to the previous. He desires to avenge what he calls ‘the best geopolitical disaster of the 20th Century’, the autumn of the united states. He and his entourage, former KGB officers, imagine the destruction of the Soviet Union was the work of Western intelligence companies.”

Russia’s motion man president

The Vladimir Putin of immediately is barely recognisable from the liberal determine Mr Yumashev remembers. So, does Mr Putin’s former boss remorse giving him a job?

“I’ve no regrets,” Mr Yumashev tells me, including: “It is clear that Russians nonetheless belief Putin.”

Nonetheless, Mr Yumashev thinks that Boris Yeltsin’s resignation ought to function a lesson to all Russian presidents, the lesson being “that it is essential to step down and make means for youthful individuals. For Yeltsin this was extremely essential.”