As an autocrat who has kept himself at arm’s length from the west for much of his administration, Vladimir Putin is a difficult man to get close to. Outside of the inner circle of Kremlin officials, oligarchs and Russian strongmen, there are few individuals who have shared a room with him. However, there is a small minority of westerners that can claim to have observed and engaged with the Russian president in close quarters, developing a rare first-hand impression of Putin.
These diplomats, political aides, journalists and academics have all met Putin on numerous occasions over the past 22 years, witnessing the evolution of a man and mind that, through the invasion of Ukraine, has come to reshape the modern world.
Here, The Independent tells their stories:
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