Russian President Vladimir Putin may be a popular figure at home, but he's a polarising personality who's set Europe against Russia over the annexation of Crimea and intervention in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a rally to support his bid in the upcoming presidential election at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia March 3, 2018
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a rally to support his bid in the upcoming presidential election at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia March 3, 2018 (Reuters)

Increasingly, encounters with Russian aircraft over Europe have become more dangerous, say Nato officials. There were 130 intercepts of Russian warplanes over the Baltic sea in 2017, and a Russian military exercise last September is now said to have been based on a mock invasion of the west. 

Russian President Putin has so far found no challengers to his use of hard power. 

As he launched a war in Chechnya, then overran part of Georgia, and part of Ukraine next, he then annexed the Crimea.       

Russia supported far-right candidates in European elections where France's President Macron dressed down Russian media outlets for attempting interference by spreading untruths.

Emerging cracks in European unity may soften some views on Russia. However, many leaders view Putin as a potential threat to Europe and his tough-guy approach hasn't tempered suspicions and unease in the west.

When Russians go to the polls on March 18, there's little doubt Putin will be re-elected as president. TRT World's  Dana Lewis has more on what that means for Russian- European relations.

Source: TRT World