On this day 20 years ago, Russian President Boris Yeltsin named Vladimir Putin the country’s acting prime minister and successor for the presidency.

At the time, most Russians knew little about the 46-year-old head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), who had largely kept out of the public eye.

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The Kremlin’s political opponents, meanwhile, criticized Yeltsin’s move, citing Putin’s lack of political experience and his ties to the security forces. 

Some observers even predicted that he would fail to win the upcoming presidential elections.

Yet since then, Putin has cemented his position at the top of Russian politics and has remained in power as either president or prime minister for two decades, presiding over an era of immense economic growth and dwindling political freedoms.

Here are excerpts of articles from The Moscow Times archive immediately after the Aug. 9, 1999 announcement: