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Putin inauguration: World view of a Russian feeling dissed

As the second presidential inauguration of Vladimir Putin approaches, a former correspondent who once worked for him looks at the world view of the Russian iron man. His theory: The president is feeling dissed by the West and believes it conspires to "destroy" Russia.

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On the May 7 inauguration of President Putin, a former longtime Moscow correspondent who once worked for him looks at the world view of the Russian iron man, who feels dissed by the West. This is the cover story in the May 7 edition of The Christian Science MonitorWeekly.

Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images

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My first memory of Vladimir Putin – if you can call it a memory – goes back to late 1991, just a month before the collapse of the Soviet Union, when I caught sight of him, without knowing who he was, of course, in St. Petersburg. I was making a series of reports for the BBC in the city, which had just been given its original name back, after 67 years as "Leningrad." As we filmed a meeting between the mayor, Anatoly Sobchak, and a visiting British politician, a small, fair-haired man flitted anonymously in the background.

Rewatching the footage 20 years later, I recognize the features: soft, thin hair parted to one side; glassy eyes; and protruding lips. He walks with his head pressed forward and an aggressive gait, rolling slightly from side to side. This is Mr. Putin at 39, recently returned from a five-year posting as a spy in East Germany and now head of the city's "external relations committee." He is unobtrusive and slightly nervous, just as you would expect from a man used to living in the shadows. He fingers his chin self-consciously, knowing a Western TV camera is pointed at him – possibly for the first time in his life.

Putin's job was to attract foreign investors to the city. He would later succeed in bringing in giants such as The Coca-Cola Company. But in 1991 his immediate priority was to solve the city's food crisis – a colossal task, as I saw for myself when I toured the St. Petersburg "food depot."

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