May 30, 2024

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Isolated from the West, Putin displays domestic power at his inauguration

Isolated from the West, Putin displays domestic power at his inauguration

Vladimir Putin was inaugurated for a fifth term as president on Tuesday in a pomp-filled ceremony and a televised mass, as the Russian leader once again tried to portray his invasion of Ukraine as a religiously correct mission that is part of “our politics.” 1,000-year-old history.”

Putin took the presidential oath — sworn to “respect and protect the rights and freedoms of man and citizen” — with his hand on a red copy of the Russian Constitution, the 1993 document that guarantees many of Putin’s democratic rights. He spent much of his 25-year reign in decline.

Putin obtained his fifth term last March, in pro forma elections that Western countries rejected as sham. If he serves the full six years of his new term, he will become Russia’s longest-serving leader since Empress Catherine the Great in the 18th century.

“Together, we will prevail!” Putin said at the end of his speech after taking the oath in the Kremlin’s gilded St. Andrew’s Hall.

After that, state television showed a mass inside the Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Kremlin, presided over by Patriarch Kirill I, head of the Russian Orthodox Church. He blessed Mr. Putin as the president stood, looked on, occasionally bowed and expressed himself — a scene that underscored the Kremlin’s intensifying efforts to give a religious sheen to Mr. Putin’s rule.

“The head of state must sometimes make fateful and frightening decisions,” the patriarch said, in what appeared to be an attempt to frame Mr. Putin’s invasion as justified before God. “If such a decision is not taken, the consequences can be very serious for the people and the state. But these decisions are almost always linked to the victims.

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Putin did not provide any new policy details in his speech, although analysts expect him to make some changes to the composition of his government later this week. He also made no mention of the tactical nuclear weapons exercises his military announced on Monday, a move that highlighted Putin’s ongoing attempts to pressure the West to reverse its support for Ukraine.

“We do not reject dialogue with Western countries,” Putin said in his speech, reiterating his call for talks that many critics see as tantamount to a demand for surrender on the part of the West and Ukraine.

“I will reiterate that talks, including strategic stability issues, are possible,” he added, referring to arms control negotiations with the United States that have been stalled since Russia launched its invasion more than two years ago. “But only as equals, respecting each other’s interests.”

Isolated from the West more than two years since launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and under indictment by the International Criminal Court, Mr. Putin is demonstrating strength at the domestic level that appears stronger than ever.

Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Russian Communist Party, said upon his arrival to the ceremony in the Kremlin: “Our president has the highest powers, more than the American president and even the Russian Tsar.” “A lot depends on it.”

More than 2,000 government officials, prominent supporters and loyal administrators who are part of Russian institutions in occupied Ukraine gathered to witness the tightly managed inauguration ceremony.

Putin’s previously scheduled election in March gave him more than 87% of the vote, according to Russian election officials, with a turnout of nearly 80%.

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As supporters gathered, they all shared a message demonstrating Mr. Putin’s iron grip on their loyalty: that he would keep Russia stable, strong and peaceful.

Among the first to arrive was American actor Steven Seagal, who said about Russia’s future: “With President Putin, it will be better.”

Putin took the short oath standing next to Valery Zorkin, head of the Constitutional Court, a body that has steadfastly upheld Putin’s rollback of democratic rights.

All known opposition politicians have been imprisoned. The most prominent of them, Alexei A., died. Navalny, in a penal colony in the Arctic Circle in February.

His widow, Yulia Navalnaya, condemned Mr. Putin’s inauguration on Tuesday Video posted on YouTube Tuesday morning,

“Our country is led by a liar, a thief and a murderer,” said Ms. Navalnaya, who lives outside Russia. “But this will definitely end.”

As in the past, the elaborate state television broadcast mixed ceremonial pomp with a portrayal of Mr. Putin as a modest and refined leader. Before the ceremony, Putin was shown rising from his desk, flipping through a sheaf of paper, walking down long, narrow corridors, passing uniformed guards, and climbing into a Russian-made limousine that transported him across the Kremlin grounds.

Ivan Nitchporenko contributed reporting.