Oct. 5 - President Vladimir Putin is facing the biggest criticism of his political career so far as he prepares to celebrate his 60th birthday on Sunday. Jessica Gray reports.
Russia's Vladimir Putin fights tears during his acceptance speech in March after clinching the presidential race. But as his 60th birthday approaches on Sunday, the former KGB spy faces some of the fiercest opposition to his rule as well as one poll showing his popularity has fallen below 50 percent. The president has long touted a macho image, pulling publicity stunts like playing ice hockey or scuba diving to the delight of his supporters. Critics are now mocking that image on the internet and playing up fears that Putin's latest term in office will mean stagnation for Russia. Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov says Putin has been corrupted by his desire to rule the country and reliance on strongman tactics to scare off opponents. However, there are still many who support the president for crushing the rebellion in Chechnya and restoring control to the Kremlin. Analysts add that he still has friends in high places, many of them rich business men and fellow KGB veterans, who are happy to keep Putin in power.