Putin Sworn in for Fourth Term at the Kremlin in Elaborate Ceremony

Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool/AP

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. Andrew’s 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 carpet lined 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 the firmness of Russia’s “defense capabilities,” he focused on a need for economic development, promising technological and social advances. As part of that, he said, 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.

Recent events however have shown a far less full-throated commitment to democracy. Putin 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 March’s 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.

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SOURCE: ABC News, Patrick Reevell