Vladimir Putin on Monday was sworn in for a fourth term as Russia’s president in an elaborate ceremony at the Kremlin, opening another six years ruling the country where he has already been in power for almost two decades.
Putin took the oath of office in the gold-encrusted St. Andrews hall, where Russia’s tsars were once crowned. The televised ceremony on Monday began with a staged scene in which cameras appeared to come upon Putin in his shirt-sleeves in his Kremlin office, as though he was interrupted during his ordinary workday.
Putin, who has tried to cultivate an image as a tireless servant of Russia, then put on his jacket and walked silently for several minutes down the building’s long, empty corridors, seeming to pause at one point as though inspecting some paintings hanging on a wall.
He then rode a few hundred yards across the Kremlin grounds in a phalanx of police bikes, seated in a new Russian-built limousine unveiled especially for the inauguration.
At exactly midday, Putin entered the hall for the ceremony, walking along a red carpetlined by hundreds of Russia’s rich and powerful. He took the oath of office with his hand placed upon a copy of Russia’s constitution, swearing to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens.
In a speech after the oath, Putin said that Russia faced “historic” tasks and the country needs a “leap forward in all spheres of life.” After noting that Russia’s “defense capabilities,” were now “reliably supported,” he focused on a need for Russia to develop economically and said he believed democracy was essential for that to be achieved.
“I am certain that such a leap can be achieved only be a free society,” Putin said.
Those words may ring hollow given the form of Putin’s re-election. Putin was won almost 77 percent of the vote in mid-March — a vast margin that reflects in part his popularity among Russians, but also the country’s heavily controlled political scene, where media is dominated by the Kremlin and most serious political opponents have been sidelined.
International monitors have criticized the election saying the voters were pressured and had no real choice other than Putin due to the lack of competitors on the ballot.
Putin has now ruled Russia longer than any leader since Joseph Stalin, building a highly centralized system that has become increasingly authoritarian in recent years.
First elected in 2000, as the anointed successor to then-ailing president Boris Yeltsin, Putin has now ruled Russia for 18 years. He held the presidency for all of those years but four, during which he shuffled to the prime minister’s office to skirt constitutional term limits.
Source: ABC News
Featured Image: Getty Images
Inset Image: AP Photo/File