What makes the mind of Vladimir Putin tick?

No brain can survive unconstrained power for 21 years without becoming distorted

Vladimir Putin retains a remarkable 63 per cent approval rate in Russia because of his success as a national psychologist. Photograph: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP

Vladimir Putin retains a remarkable 63 per cent approval rate in Russia because of his success as a national psychologist. Photograph: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP

The 37-year-old Soviet officer nervously eyed the angry crowd as it swelled against the gates of Dresden’s KGB headquarters. It was December 5th, 1989, and his call for armed backup had elicited, down a crackly line, the curt response. Moscow is silent.

Lieut Col Vladimir Putin marched to the gate and told the heaving mass of East Germans they would be shot by non-existent armed soldiers inside the building if they tried to enter. The bluff worked, and the crowd shuffled back and turned away to find other offices of the Stasi state to ransack.

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