Putin returns to Kremlin with Russia at crossroads
RUSSIA: Vladimir Putin Monday takes office for a third term as
Russia's president at a pivotal moment in its post-Soviet history, with
his supporters expecting landmark reform but the opposition fearing
Putin is to be sworn in at a grand ceremony in the Kremlin that will
see him return to the post he held from 2000-2008 but, ruling a Russia
changed by the outburst of mass protests against the authorities.
Dmitry Medvedev, the outgoing president now mocked as a mere Kremlin
seat warmer for the last four years, is expected to take on Putin's
current job of prime minister in a job swap that angered the protestors.
Putin presided over a new era of stability in Russia in his first two
Kremlin terms after taking over amid the chaos that marked the rule of
the mercurial Boris Yeltsin.
But society is now changing at a speed unseen since the Soviet
collapse: a burgeoning middle class increasingly critical of the Kremlin
and the Internet providing a new channel for criticism away from turgid
Protests in Moscow against Putin's domination of Russia and
fraud-tainted December parliamentary elections at their peak drew over
100,000 people in Moscow and threw down an unprecedented challenge to
Rather than the parliamentary opposition leaders who hardly bothered
to criticise Putin in the last years, the protests were inspired by a
new set of Internet-savvy figures such as the anti-corruption campaigner
In his last address to parliament in April before he steps down as
prime minister, Putin admitted that the election period had been “tense”
but said he expected unity from all political forces.
The sting has slipped for the moment from the tail of the opposition
protests, with their honeymoon period over and their leaders trying to
bridge differences between a motley crowd of leftists, nationalists and
While Putin won a crushing 63.6 percent in the March 4 presidential
elections, the opposition said his rating was boosted by dirty tricks by
the authorities. They claim discontent is still seething. AFP