President Vladimir Putin stuck with his long-serving prime minister in his first act after being sworn in for a new term on Monday, signaling that he would keep faith with a policy direction that has brought Russia into conflict with the West.
Standing in the ornately-decorated Andreyevsky Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace, with his hand on a gold-embossed copy of the constitution, Putin, 65, swore to serve the Russian people, to safeguard rights and freedoms, and protect Russian sovereignty.
Putin secured a new six-year term after more than 70 percent of voters backed him in a March 18 presidential election. His most dangerous challenger, Alexei Navalny, was not allowed to take part and on Saturday was detained at a protest called under the slogan: “Putin is not our tsar.”
Soon after the inauguration ceremony, the Kremlin issued a statement saying that Putin had nominated Dmitry Medvedev again to be prime minister in his new term. Medvedev, a loyal Putin lieutenant, has held the job since 2012.
Some Kremlin-watchers had speculated Putin might bring in a fresh face as prime minister to kick-start reforms of the sluggish economy and revive foreign investment curtailed by stand-offs with the West.
By choosing Medvedev – seen by people close to the Russian elite as a safe pair of hands whose chief quality is loyalty to his boss – Putin indicated he favored continuity.
The choice is also likely to be parsed by Kremlin-watchers for any clues about what happens after Putin’s current term ends in 2024. The constitution bars him from seeking a third consecutive term.
When Putin came up against the same term limits in 2008, he got around the problem by anointing Medvedev as president, before taking back the job after one term.