Vladimir Putin, the 58-year-old former President and current prime minister of Russia, has cultivated a distinct public image over the past several years. The politician has piloted firefighting planes, darted whales, driven race cars, and even took a submersible 1,400 meters (4,600 ft) below the surface of Lake Baikal. Putin was forced to step down from the presidency in 2008 due to a constitutional limit on more than two consecutive terms. However, he remained the most influential figure in Russian politics, and has had a strong hand in the “tandem rule” between himself and current president Dmitri Medvedev. The next presidential election takes place in March of 2012, and indications are that both Medvedev and Putin are planning to run, though neither has officially announced his candidacy yet.