Dmitry Medvedev was sworn in as Russian president yesterday in a glittering Kremlin ceremony and immediately nominated his predecessor Vladimir Putin as prime minister, launching an uncertain era of joint rule.
After taking the oath in the Kremlin’s gold-leafed Great Palace, Medvedev, 42, said his most important task was to ensure “civil and economic freedom” and to strengthen Russia’s role on the international stage.
Goose-stepping guards in Tsarist-style uniforms escorted Medvedev to the chandelier-lined Andreyevsky Hall where he placed his hand on a red-bound copy of the Constitution and took possession of the golden presidential chain.
His first act as president was to name Putin prime minister — an arrangement analysts say could allow Putin to remain the true leader.
Putin underlined his influence by opening the Kremlin ceremony, attended by more than 2,000 members of Russia’s elite, with a call for “everyone together to continue the course that has already been taken” during his eight years in power.
Premier Viktor Zubkov resigned immediately after the ceremony, clearing the way for Putin.
A few hours later Medvedev assumed control of Russia’s nuclear arsenal at a ceremony with military officials, ITAR-TASS and other Russian agencies reported. He took command of the arsenal in the presence of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and military officers in the Kremlin, the reports said.
Medvedev has risen from obscurity as a Putin-era bureaucrat to become Russia’s third post-Soviet president, commander-in-chief of a vast nuclear arsenal and leader of the world’s largest energy producer. He inherits a booming economy fueled by massive oil and gas exports, and a country at its most confident since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
However, the mild-mannered lawyer, who has never before held elected office, will have to grapple with politically explosive price rises, unbridled corruption and turbulent relations with the West. On Tuesday, the government approved big hikes in utility prices.
Tomorrow, Medvedev and Putin, dubbed the “tandem” by Russian newspapers, will star at an annual Red Square military parade featuring tanks and nuclear missiles for the first time since the Soviet crash.