Vladimir Putin was sworn in as Russia's President for a third term on Monday in a glittering Kremlin ceremony overshadowed by mass protests against his return.
After taking the oath in the magnificent Kremlin Palace in front of 3,000 guests, Mr. Putin said the country was entering “a new phase” in its development that would define its place in the world.
“We are entering a new stage of national development. We will have to decide tasks of a new level, a new quality and scale. The coming years would be decisive in shaping Russia's destiny for decades to come,” he said.
Mr. Putin served two terms as Russian President from 2000 and 2008 and shifted to the post of Prime Minister after ceding power to his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev. With the presidential term extended from four to six years, Mr. Putin, who turns 60 later this year, will serve till 2018 and will have the option of running for the fourth term.
Shortly after taking office Mr. Putin sent to Parliament Mr. Medvedev's nomination as Prime Minister in keeping with his earlier promise.
The proposed job swap in the Kremlin angered many Russians who staged several large-scale protests in Moscow and other Russian cities in recent months. On Sunday an estimated 50,000 Muscovites took part in another demonstration which for the first time turned violent as demonstrators clashes with police near the Kremlin walls. About three dozen people were injured, including 12 police, and 450 demonstrators were detained.
Harsh treatment of protesters stood in stark contrast with restrained police behaviour during earlier rallies. More than 130 people were again detained on Monday when hundreds of protesters attempted to march toward the Kremlin. Authorities took unprecedented security measures in Moscow for Mr. Putin's inauguration deploying thousands of police, sealing off streets and closing most metro stations in the central part of the capital.
Mr. Putin drove to the Kremlin in a convoy of motorcycles along empty streets cleared of all traffic and pedestrians. Hours after the inauguration ceremony was over, police continued to round up people wearing white ribbons, the symbol of anti-Putin protests.
In his inauguration speech, Mr. Putin vowed to uphold rights and freedoms.
“We want to live and we will live in a democratic country where everyone enjoys freedoms and opportunities for using talents and endeavours,” he said.