Vladimir Putin has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and devastation has been seen across the country including the capital Kyiv where missile strikes have badly damaged residential buildings.
There have been reports of frequent explosions, missile strikes, and displacement as Putin’s forces close in on their targets.
Experts have sought to explain what is motivating the Russian president to invade its neighbour and threaten the world order, but what about the people that surround the Kremlin leader?
Here we take a look at Putin’s inner circle, the wealthy elite, high-ranking military officials, and ‘yes men’ who provide the leader with feedback.
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Sergey Lavrov is 71-years-old and serves as Russia’s foreign minister, but he’s not well-liked and is regarded as a “complete a*****e” or a “nasty son of a b***h”, according to Politico.
Born near Moscow, Lavrov studied international relations before landing an internship at the Soviet Embassy in Sri Lanka, and he’s been in the diplomatic service ever since.
For ten years he served as Russia ’s envoy to the UN and was appointed foreign minister in 2004.
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He’s known for his short temper and can swear in multiple languages, including English, and in 2015 was heard to utter “f*****g morons” during a news conference about the Islamic State.
The phrase has become a meme in Russia, and t-shirts with Lavrov’s face next to the rude words are sold online.
Lavrov, alongside Putin, is the subject of the UK’s punitive sanctions, imposed by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
She said: “These new sanctions send a clear message that nothing and no one is off the table. These measures reflect the horror and gravity of what Putin and his regime has done, violating the territorial integrity of a sovereign nation with an illegal and unjustified invasion.”
Lavrov recently met with Liz Truss, and branded her “unprepared” before saying of their meeting: “That what we have is a conversation of a mute and a deaf person.”
Aleksandr Bortnikov, 70, also the subject of sanctions, is director of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation – the successor to the KGB.
Born in Perm, in the Soviet Union, Bortnikov graduated from the Leningrad Institute of Railway Engineers in 1973 and soon after joined the KGB.
In December 2017, he was the subject of derision after he sought to legitimize the Stalinist Great Purge, a brutal campaign led by dictator Joseph Stalin to eliminate anyone he considered a threat – where it is believed 750,000 were executed.
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Dmitry Medvedev, 56, was elected president in 2008 but served just one term in office before he was succeeded by Putin in 2012, and since then he’s been prime minister.
Born in Leningrad, Medvedev was described as a “dreadful why-asker” by his first teacher, but that must have changed as now he’s known as Putin’s ‘yes man’.
During his time as a student, Medvedev is reported as being a fan of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple.
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Sergei Naryshkin, 67, is Russia’s spy chief and earlier this week he found himself in the firing line when Putin demanded he “speak plainly” in a slight during a televised meeting.
Born in Leningrad, Naryshkin went on to study at the Leningrad Institute of Mechanics, the International Management Institute of Saint Petersburg, and the Higher School of the KGB which he attended alongside Putin.
In his early career, he worked in the Soviet Embassy in Brussels, and since 2004 he has been a Minister, Chief of Staff of the Government of Russia.
In 2009, he was appointed chairman of the Historical Truth Commission which set about to “defend Russia against falsifiers of history”.
In December, 2021, Naryshkin dismissed an invasion of Ukraine as “malicious propaganda by the US State Department”, adding: “I need to reassure everyone. Nothing like this is going to happen.”
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