Moscow: In a lavish ceremony in Kremlin's Grand Palace, Vladimir Putin was officialy sworn in as Russia's President on Monday.
With his right hand placed on a red-bound copy of the Russian Constitution, Putin took the oath as he officially took over reins from Dimitry Medvedev.
"I swear on the power invested in my as president of the Russian Federation to respect and protect the rights and freedom of its citizens," Putin said.
Nearly 2,000 guests attended Putin’s inauguration ceremony in the Kremlin's St Andrew Hall.
While taking the oath of office for a third term as Russia's President, Putin said he considers "service to the fatherland and our nation to be the meaning of my life."
"We want to live and we will live in a democratic country that will offer opportunities and freedom for everyone's life and labor," he said in a grand Kremlin hall.
Russia's nuclear suitcase was handed over to Putin immediately after his inauguration.
Those assembled included Putin's handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, and Patriarch Kirill, head of Russia's powerful Orthodox Church. Former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was also in attendance.
"We are entering a new stage of national development," Putin said. "We want to live in a democratic country…in a successful Russia."
The new, now six-year term will keep Putin in power until 2018 with the option of running for a fourth term.
Despite unprecedented security measures in the center of Moscow, several thousand opposition activists tried to protest along the route Putin's motorcade took to the Kremlin and were met by helmeted riot police. Dozens of demonstrators have been detained.
Putin was forced to step down in 2008 by a Constitution that forbids more than two subsequent terms, but is silent on further periods in office. He shifted to the post of prime minister after installing his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, in the Kremlin, but remained by far Russia's most powerful politician.
On Sunday, a demonstration by at least 20,000 people turned into a battle with police after some protesters tried to split off from the approved venue and march to the Kremlin.
Club-wielding officers wearing helmets seized demonstrators and hauled them to police vehicles, dragging some by the hair, others by the neck. Several protesters were injured, including one man with blood dripping from his head down the left side of his face.
Three leaders of the opposition movement that gained new life over the winter were among those arrested: Sergei Udaltsov, Alexei Navalny and Boris Nemtsov.
More than 400 people were arrested, and Russia's chief investigative agency said it was considering filing criminal charges of inciting riots against some of them. Police reported that 12 riot police officers were injured.
Previous instalments of an unprecedented wave of protests that burst out after fraud-plagued Parliamentary Elections in December had been marked by fastidious order. The crowds, sometimes as big as 100,000 or more, had carefully kept to agreed-upon meeting-places and routes, even making a point of thanking police who stood guard in vast numbers, but did not interfere.
Sunday's break in that pattern likely reflected a sense of anger and impotence among protesters upset that Putin was handily elected to a new six-year term in the Kremlin despite their defiance.
(With Agencies’ inputs)
First Published: Monday, May 07, 2012, 09:43