On This Day: Putin becomes acting president of Russia, following Yeltsin’s resignation

On New Year’s Eve, 1999, Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the Russian Federation, resigns after eight years in office. The presidency passes to the prime minister, Vladimir Putin, a former intelligence officer who will quickly become the central figure in Russian politics and play a major role in global affairs in the new century.

Putin spent 15 years as an intelligence officer in the KGB and its post-Soviet successor, the FSB, retiring in 1990. He moved to St. Petersburg and entered politics, becoming deputy mayor just four years later. Yeltsin made him director of the FSB in 1998 and, presumably very impressed, appointed him prime minister the following year. Yeltsin, suffering numerous health issues after years of heavy drinking, resigned his post just four months later, completing Putin’s six-year rise from political newcomer to president of one of the largest countries in the world.

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