Russia's Putin sworn-in as President after crackdown on dissent
By Stefan J. Bos
The 65-year old Putin entered the lavishly decorated Grand Kremlin Palace around midday where he was sworn in for another six-year term as Russia's president watched by many guests.
Thousands of guests stood in the three halls for the inauguration. One of the most prominent was former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who is now chairman of Russia's state oil company Rosneft and one of the most prominent Western voices arguing for an end to sanctions against Russia.
Putin arrived here after he ditched imported vehicles in favor of a locally-made limousine. His first ride in the Russian-made car covered the short distance from his office to the Kremlin hall.
He had urged the nation to reduce its dependence on imported goods and technology, amid Western sanctions over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea, its role in conflicts in eastern Ukraine and Syria, as well as other controversies.
In his inauguration speech, Putin said improving Russia's economy following a recession partly linked to international sanctions would be a primary goal of his next six-year term.
He also made clear that Russia faced international and domestic but claimed that for more than a thousand years of history, Russia has "often met epochs of turmoil and trials, and has always revived as a Phoenix, and reached heights that others could not."
Putin spoke after Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and around 1600 anti-Kremlin activists were detained by police on Saturday for protesting against Putin who they view as an autocratic czar.
The Russian leader did not directly address their complaints. But heard through an interpreter, Putin made clear that local authorities should be open for criticism and new ideas. "They should treat our people's complains seriously, and they need to respond and react immediately," he noted.
"We need to expand the freedoms for our businessmen, entrepreneurs, and artists. To all people who seek novelty and development," Putin added.
Monday's inauguration came after Putin held onto the presidency in March's election when he tallied nearly 8o percent of the vote.
He has effectively been the leader of Russia for all of the 21st century. Putin stepped down from the presidency in 2008 because of term limits, but was named the prime minister and continued to steer the country until he returned as president in 2012.
Soon after the ceremony Putin ordered formally dissolving the Cabinet but nominated Dmitry Medvedev to serve again as prime minister.
The lower house of parliament is to vote on whether to approve him on Tuesday followed by other ministers.