…promises to increase the might, prosperity, and glory of Russia

By Bartholomew Madukwe with Agency Report

“As head of state, I will do everything in my power to increase the might, prosperity, and glory of Russia”.

These were the words of Vladimir Putin, in his speech, on Monday as he was sworn in as Russian president, making a new six-year term.

Putin took the oath of office in a ceremony at Kremlin hall, with his right hand on a red-bound copy of the Russian Constitution.

The president just finished the term that he began in 2012, after a four-year stint as prime minister.

In his address after taking the oath, Putin called for a “breakthrough” that would bolster the Russian economy and improve living standards — echoing exhortations he made in a March 1 state-of-the-nation speech during his reelection campaign, stated rferl.

Focusing mainly on domestic issues, Putin urged Russians to unite to face down “new challenges.” He said Russia will continue to strengthen its military capability.

After the address, he descended from the podium and greeted members of the audience, including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

He then reviewed an honor guard and spoke to young people lined up in a Kremlin square, taking photographs with a few.

He also attended a prayer service in which Kirill asked God to grant him the “strength and wisdom” to rule in peace and prosperity, reports rferl.

Putin was reelected by a landslide on March 18, in a vote that has called a demonstration of public trust but critics say was marred by fraud and what international observers said was the lack of a genuine choice.

The inauguration comes two days after police detained some 1,600 people, including opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, at protests in dozens of cities where demonstrators came out to voice dismay at Putin’s long rule and the prospect of six more years.

The approach to the ceremony was less elaborate than in 2012, when opponents said his motorcade rode down deserted central streets while protesters were kept away underscored a gulf between Putin and the people.

Putin was seen in a dark suit, walking out of his office in one Kremlin building and riding in a limousine to the Grand Kremlin Palace nearby for the ceremony.

Inside, large crowds of guests lined his path along a red carpet to the podium, and the event appeared carefully designed to portray Putin as a hardworking man of the people.
It was gathered that Putin would be barred from seeking reelection in 2024 because Russian’s constitution limits presidents to two consecutive terms.

Meanwhile, most of the protesters detained on May 5 have been released as some are facing court hearings, including Navalny, who was carried away by police and was one of more than 700 people detained in Moscow alone.

In one of the first rulings in connection with the protests, a St. Petersburg court on May 7 ordered a man who is accused of knocking out a police officer’s tooth at a rally in Putin’s hometown jailed for two months pending trial on a charge of violence against state authorities. Mikhail Tsakunov, who is 25 and could be sentenced to 10 years in prison if tried and convicted, denies he attacked the officer.

The crackdown set a stark tone for Putin’s new term, which begins as Moscow remains locked in a geopolitical standoff with the West over a range of issues, including Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea, backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine, alleged meddling in U.S. elections, and support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The European Union said the police reaction to the protests threatened “the fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and assembly” in Russia, and the United States condemned the detentions.

“Leaders who are secure in their own legitimacy don’t arrest their peaceful opponents for protesting,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Twitter.

The president has spelled out a raft of goals for his new term, including slashing Russia’s poverty rate, modernizing infrastructure, boosting health care and life-expectancy, and a technological drive to transform the economy and improve living standards.

In a long decree issued hours after the inauguration ceremony, Putin set out scores of economic, social, and developmental goals for his new term and beyond.

Those with targets of 2024 include cutting the poverty rate in half, improving housing for 5 million families every year, raising the average life expectancy to 78 years, and making Russia’s economy one of five biggest in the world by GDP — up from 12th place in 2017, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Whether he will be able to implement these ambitious plans remains to be seen.