Russian President Vladimir Putin listens during a meeting in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)
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The foundations on which Vladimir Putin built his 15 years in charge of Russia are giving way. The meltdown of the Russian ruble, which has plunged 18 percent against the dollar in the last two days alone, is endangering the mantra of stability around which Putin has based his rule. In a surprise move today, the Russian central bank raised interest rates by the most in 16 years, taking its benchmark to 17 percent.The ruble meltdown and accompanying economic slump marks the collapse of Putin's oil-fueled economic system of the past 15 years, said an executive at Gazprombank, the lender affiliated with Russia's state gas exporter, speaking on condition of anonymity. The threats to economic stability have arisen with Putin's popularity at 85 percent after Russians lauded his approach to Ukraine following ally Viktor Yanukovych's ouster.Putin has already weathered one economic storm. The global financial crisis that erupted in 2008 wiped out 7.8 percent of Russia's GDP the following year amid a similar tumble in oil prices.
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