Vladimir Putin was sworn in for another six years as Russian president on Monday.
Standing in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s ornately-decorated Andreyevsky Hall with his hand on a gold-embossed copy of the constitution, Putin swore to serve the Russian people, safeguard their rights and freedoms, and defend Russian sovereignty.
Putin was inaugurated for his fourth term as president two months after more than 70 percent of voters backed him in a presidential election in which he had no serious challengers.
His most dangerous opponent, Alexei Navalny, was barred from running in that vote and on Saturday Navalny and hundreds of his supporters were detained by police while protesting over Putin’s new term under the slogan: “Putin is not our tsar.”
Putin, who is 65, embarks on his fourth term in office buoyed by widespread popular support but weighed down by a costly confrontation with the West, a fragile economy and uncertainty about what happens when his term ends.
The Russian constitution bars him from running again when his new terms ends in 2024.
Putin takes inaugural ride
President Vladimir Putin has switched to travelling in a new Russian-made limousine, ditching the imported vehicles he has been using up to now, Russian state television reported on Monday.
The new Russian limousine had its first public outing on Monday when Putin climbed into the vehicle to travel the short distance from his office to the Kremlin hall where he was to be sworn in for another term in office.
Details of the new limousine have not been revealed, but it will become the heir to the Russian-made ZIL sedans that for decades transported Soviet leaders.
Putin has said that Russia should reduce its dependence on imported goods and technology, a drive that has gathered pace since Russia was hit by Western sanctions.
In a ceremony in an ornate Kremlin hall in Moscow, 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.
"Now, we must use all existing possibilities, first of all for resolving internal urgent tasks of development, for economic and technological breakthroughs, for raising competitiveness in those spheres that determine the future," he told thousands of guests standing in the elaborate Andreevsky Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace and two adjacent halls.
"A new quality of life, well-being, security and people's health - that's what's primary today," he said.
Although Putin has restored Russia's prominence on the world stage through military actions, he has been criticized for inadequate efforts to diversify Russia's economy away from its dependence on oil and gas exports and to develop the country's manufacturing sector.
"Russia should be modern and dynamic, it should be ready to accept the call of the times," he said.
In his speech, he made only brief reference to Russia's international role, saying "Russia is a strong, active, influential participant in international life. The security and defense capability of the country is reliably ensured. We will give these matters the necessary constant attention."
He acknowledged that the challenges facing Russia were formidable "but we all remember well that, for more than a thousand years of history, Russia has often faced epochs of turmoil and trials, and has always revived as a Phoenix, reached heights that others could not."
Putin held onto the presidency in March's election when he tallied 77 percent of the vote.
Putin has effectively been the leader of Russia for all of the 21st century. He stepped down from the presidency in 2008 because of term limits, but was named prime minister and continued to steer the country until he returned as president in 2012.
The ceremony Monday was covered in assiduous detail on state television, showing Putin working at his desk in his shirt sleeves, then donning a suit coat to begin a long walk through the corridors of the Kremlin's Senate building, then boarding a limousine for a short drive to the Grand Kremlin Palace.
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.
Schroeder stood with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Putin prominently shook hands with him after the speech.