(MOSCOW) — Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin, where he was sworn in for a third term as Russia’s president.
In the opulent, gold-covered St. George’s hall, Putin took the oath of office on Monday and delivered a brief speech in which he spoke of the need to strengthen Russia’s democracy and provide security for its people.
A small group of protesters attempted to gather near the Kremlin, but were quickly arrested and pushed back.
Meanwhile, across town, a group of protesters gathered in Pushkin Square after police blocked off the avenues along Putin’s route to the Kremlin. Opposition leaders say they had planned to cover the route in white ribbons, the symbol of the opposition. Riot police soon broke up the gathering and Russian opposition outlets aired footage of protesters being arrested.
Riot police are still preventing people from walking on those main thoroughfares.
Putin is returning to the presidency after four years as prime minister facing many more challenges than when he departed due to term limits.
An unprecedented wave of opposition protests has shaken Putin’s image as Russia’s invincible leader.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of people attended what appeared to be the largest anti-Putin protest since they began in December. Several in the crowd clashed with riot police who responded with tear gas and batons. Hundreds were arrested, and authorities say over two dozen police were injured in the fighting.
Putin’s inauguration ceremony was filled with pomp and circumstance, including a big gun salute. Monday night, he will reportedly host a lavish celebratory reception at the Kremlin that will cost several hundred thousand dollars.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN