With Russia sending troops into Eastern Ukraine in what is de facto an act of war, Europe is witnessing a crisis the magnitude of which has not been seen since World War II.
The focal point of this crisis is one man – Vladimir Putin.
The president of Russia seems to be undeterred by the sanctions that have been slapped on his administration's officials and his oligarch friends by the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), and other countries.
Neither does he show any signs of easing tensions with Ukraine, Europe, and the US.
But who is he? What do know about him? How did he rise to power?
Here's a primer on Vladimir Putin – the man who's talk of the world right now.
At the age of 23, Putin joined the top soviet security agency in 1975 – the KGB.
About a decade later, in the late 1980s, he served as a spy in Dresden, East Germany.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin entered Russian politics in 1991.
Putin in Politics
His first proper stint in Russian politics was as deputy mayor of St Petersburg, a post he acquired in 1994.
Four years later, by 1998, Putin was heading the FSB, the KGB's successor and the highest Russian intel agency.
During his tenure, he had close relations with then President Boris Yeltsin, who was the first president of post-Soviet Russia.
Yeltsin appointed Putin as Russia’s prime minister (PM) in August 1999.
As PM, Putin cracked down on rebels in Chechnya and Dagestan, and his ruthless handling of both the crises boosted his popularity.
When Yeltsin resigned, he took over as Russia's president in 2000.
President of Russia
Using political patronage, by targeting political opponents, and by muzzling the media, President Putin enhanced his power within Russia.
Like most dictators, he sold ultra-nationalism and a personality cult to stay popular.
The Russian constitution permits only two consecutive terms for a president.
In order to maintain de facto control of the government and the country, he became PM again in 2008 and hand-picked Dmitry Medvedev as a puppet president.
In the same year, Putin waged a war in Georgia, occupying two territories and allowing its separatists to proclaim South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent republics.
Syria, Crimea, and Donbas
After serving as PM for four years, Putin won his third term as president of Russia in 2012.
He intensified his country's role in the Syrian Civil War, supporting President Bashar al-Assad against the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups.
His most significant decision, in the context of the current Russia-Ukraine crisis, came in 2014 when he ordered the annexation of Crimea.
Since that event, Putin has instigated violence in Eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, that is, the enclaves of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Claiming that the separation of Ukraine from Russia during the Soviet era was a grave injustice, Putin believes, or at least he claims, that Russians and Ukrainians are 'one people.'
Driving his country on the course of war isn't too difficult for him as he maintains a tight grip on his inner circle.
The man is wily, secretive, ruthless, ambitious, and unpredictable.
All these characteristics makes it quite hard to answer the question: 'Who is Vladimir Putin?'