Chemical Weapons in SyriaIn September of 2013, tension rose between the U.S. and Syria in regards to Syria's possession of chemical weapons, resulting in the U.S. threatening to strike Syria if their weapons weren't relinquished. It was later announced that the U.S. would refrain from attacking Syria due to the cooperation of Russia and China, amongst other nations, to come up with an agreement to get Syria to release its chemical weapons.
On September 11, 2013, Putin released an op-ed piece entitled "A Plea for Caution From Russia," via The New York Times. In the article, Putin spoke directly to the U.S.'s position in taking action against Syria. He stated that by the U.S. striking Syria, despite the disapproval of several other nations, could result in violence and unrest in the Middle East potentially escalating.
Putin went on to write that the U.S.'s intention to strike Syria under the claim that Bashar al-Assad used the chemical weapons on civilians might be misplaced, with the more likely explanation being the unauthorized use of the weapons by Syrian rebels. He closed the piece by welcoming the continuation of an open dialogue between the involved nations to avoid further conflict in the Middle East.
2014 Winter OlympicsRussia was selected as the host country for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The games were held in Sochi, beginning on February 6. According to NBS Sports, Russia spent roughly $50 billion in preparations for this international event.
There was controversy surrounding the 2014 Olympics being in Russia, with the threat of possible boycotts because of Russia's laws against homosexuality. In October 2013, Vladimir Putin tried to allay some of these concerns, saying "We will do everything to make sure that athletes, fans and guests feel comfortable at the Olympic Games regardless of their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation," in an interview broadcast on Russian television.
In terms of security for the event, Putin implemented new measures aimed at cracking down on Muslim extremists. Reports surfaced in November 2013 that sailva samples had been collected from some Muslim women in the North Causasus region. These samples could be used to gather DNA profiles. This appeaed to be an effort to combat female suicide bombers known as "black widows."
Invasion into CrimeaOn March 3, 2014, not long after the conclusion of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Putin sent Russian troops into Crimea, a peninsula in Ukraine on the northeast coast of the Black Sea. The invasion came in the middle of a conflict between the East and the West. The peninsula had been part of Russia until Nikita Khrushchev, former Premier of the Soviet Union, gave it to Ukraine in 1954. Ukraine's U.N. ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev claimed that approximately 16,000 troops invaded the territory. Russia's actions caught the attention of several European countries and the United States.
Putin defended his actions on March 4, 2014, by claiming that the troops sent into Ukraine were only meant to enhance Russia's military defenses within the country—referring to Russia's Black Sea Fleet, which has its headquarters stationed in Crimea. He also vehemently denied accusations by other nations, particularly the United States, that Russia intended to engage Ukraine in war. He went on to claim that although he was granted permission from Russia's upper house of Parliament to use force in Ukraine, he found it unnecessary. Putin also wrote off any speculation that there would be further invasion into Ukranian territory, saying, "Such a measure would certainly be the very last resort." The following day, it was announced that Putin had been nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1980, Putin met his future wife, Lyudmila, who was working as a flight attendant at the time. The couple married in 1983 and had two daughters: Maria, born in 1985, and Yekaterina, born in 1986. In early June 2013, after nearly 30 years of marriage, Russia's first couple announced that they were getting a divorce, providing little explanation for the decision, but assuring that they came to it mutually and amicably.
"There are people who just cannot put up with it," Putin stated. "Lyudmila Alexandrovna has stood watch for eight, almost nine years." Providing more context to the decision, Lyudmila added, "Our marriage is over because we hardly ever see each other. Vladimir Vladimirovich is immersed in his work, our children have grown and are living their own lives."
An Orthodox Christian, Putin is open about his faith.