Russian President Vladimir Putin has become something of a "persona non grata" in the West, but at home he's more popular than ever.
Putin's popularity is something of an enigma given that much of Russia's economic problems are largely to blame on the Kremlin's arguably reckless decisions in recent years. Still, what voters have cared about is that, thanks to their strongman leader, Russia has re-established itself on the world stage as a political and military force to be reckoned with.
The turning point for Putin's leadership was in early 2014, when Russia audaciously reclaimed Crimea from Ukraine, stating that it was carrying out the will of the peninsula's people after a referendum. The vote was deemed illegal and the annexation widely condemned by the West. But at home, Putin's approval rating soared from 69 percent in February that year to 80 percent in March, according to the independent Levada Center. His rating has stayed in the low-to-mid-eighties ever since — an achievement that few leaders can boast.
When Moscow was subject to international condemnation and economic sanctions from the U.S., European Union and others, Russians loved Putin even more because he had put Russia back on the map, and Crimea back in Russia.
Needless to say, international markets saw it differently with a rapid and dramatic slump in the Russian ruble and capital flight ensuing. But even that did little to dampen Russians' enthusiasm for Putin.