In 1999, Russian president Boris Yeltsin dismissed his prime minister and promoted former KGB officer Vladimir Putin in his place. In December 1999, Yeltsin resigned, appointing Putin president, and he was re-elected in 2004. In April 2005 he made a historic visit to Israel, the first visit there by any Kremlin leader. Putin could not run again in 2008 but was appointed PM by his successor.
Putin was born in Leningrad (now St Petersburg, NW Russia. He graduated from Leningrad State University in 1975 and began his career in the KGB as an intelligence officer stationed mainly in East Germany (1975 - 89).
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, he retired from the KGB with the rank of colonel, and returned to Leningrad as a supporter of Anatoly Sobchak (1937 - 2000), a liberal politician. On the latter's election as mayor of Leningrad (1991), Putin became his head of external relations and first deputy mayor (1994).
After Sobchak's defeat in 1996, Putin resigned his post and moved to Moscow. In 1998 he was appointed deputy head of management in Boris Yeltsin's presidential administration, in charge of the Kremlin's relations with the regional governments.
Shortly afterwards, he was appointed head of the Federal Security, an arm of the former KGB, and head of Yeltsin's Security Council. In August 1999 Yeltsin dismissed his prime minister Sergey Stapashin (1952?? ) together with his cabinet, and promoted Putin in his place.
In December 1999 Yeltsin resigned as president, appointing Putin acting president until official elections were held (in early 2000). He was re-elected in 2004. In April 2005 he made a historic visit to Israel for talks with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the first visit there by any Kremlin leader.
Due to term limits, Putin cannot run again in 2008. He has all but secured himself the post of prime minister if his protégé Dmitry Medvedev becomes president in March, continuing his position among the top Russian leadership after eight years at the helm.
From : www.biography.com