Putin prepares to begin another six-year term

Just a few months short of a quarter-century as Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin will tomorrow put his hand on a copy of the constitution and begin another six-year term as president wielding extraordinary power.

Since becoming acting president on the last day of 1999, Putin has shaped Russia into a monolith, crushing political opposition, running independent-minded journalists out of the country and promoting an increasing devotion to prudish "traditional values" that pushes many in society into the margins.

His influence is so dominant that other officials could only stand submissively on the sidelines as he launched a war in Ukraine despite expectations the invasion would bring international opprobrium and harsh economic sanctions, as well as cost Russia dearly in the blood of its soldiers.

With that level of power, what Putin will do with his next term is a daunting question at home and abroad.

The war in Ukraine, where Russia is making incremental though consistent battlefield gains, is the top concern, and he is showing no indication of changing course.

"The war in Ukraine is central to his current political project, and I don't see anything to suggest that that will change. And that affects everything else," Brian Taylor, a Syracuse University professor and author of "The Code of Putinism," said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"It affects who's in what positions, it affects what resources are available and it affects the economy, affects the level of repression internally," he said.

In his state of the nation address in February, Putin vowed to fulfill Moscow's goals in Ukraine, and do whatever it takes to "defend our sovereignty and security of our citizens." He claimed the Russian military has ...

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