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The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Moscow
"Vladimir Putin is aware of his enormous responsibilities"
 real 28k

The BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow
"Mr Putin's nomination of Mr Kasyanov comes as no surprise"
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Sunday, 7 May, 2000, 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK
Putin aims to unite Russia
Mr Putin swore to serve the Russian people
Russia's new President, Vladimir Putin, has promised to restore confidence and pride in the nation he inherited from Boris Yeltsin in Russia's first democratic transfer of power.

Mr Putin moved quickly after taking the oath of office at the Kremlin to appoint outgoing first deputy premier and finance minister Mikhail Kasyanov as his acting prime minister.

The appointment of Mr Kasyanov - well known as a moderate who backs financial reforms - is being seen as a sign that Mr Putin wants to show he is serious about tackling Russia's many economic problems.

My sacred duty is to bring together the Russian people

Vladimir Putin
Mr Putin, a former KGB spy, has had a meteoric rise to power after emerging from virtual political obscurity. He became acting president after Mr Yeltsin's shock resignation on New Year's Eve, a position which was confirmed in a sweeping election victory in March.

Opulent inauguration

Flanked by a solemn Mr Yeltsin, Mr Putin hailed his inauguration in the Kremlin's opulent Great Palace as a day on which Russia could begin marking an era of harmony.

"For the first time in the history of our state, in Russian history, supreme office has been transferred by democratic and simple means, according to the will of the people, legally and peacefully."

The ceremony was laden with pomp and symbolism
He added: "My sacred duty is to bring together the Russian people, unite the people around clear tasks.

"We want our Russia to be a free, prosperous, rich, strong and civilised country, a country of which its citizens are proud and which is respected in the world."

Shortly before addressing more than 1,000 guests gathered at the Kremlin, Mr Putin swore a presidential oath to safeguard human rights, defend Russian independence and faithfully serve the people.

Take care of Russia

Mr Yeltsin made a brief speech urging "Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) to carry out with dignity his presidential duties, which are not easy, and wish the entire Russian people prosperity and well-being."

Putin and Yeltsin
Mr Putin and Yeltsin reviewed a guard of honour at the Kremlin
As Mr Yeltsin left Russia's political stage, his final words to Mr Putin and the Russian people were: "Take care of Russia."

US President Bill Clinton sent a message of congratulations to Mr Putin, in which he told the new Russian leader he was ready to co-operate with him on a wide range of issues, according to a White House spokeswoman.

A 30-gun salute rang out in the Kremlin grounds as Mr Putin left the ceremony to review a guard of honour with Mr Yeltsin.

Few changes

He went on from there to the government White House, where he bestowed the title of acting prime minister on Mr Kasyanov, previously in charge of Russia's negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.

Mr Kasyanov is well regarded by the West
Mr Kasyanov will lead the government on an interim basis until parliament approves Mr Putin's permanent choice of prime minister.

The new president is widely expected to want to keep Mr Kasyanov on as premier.

In his first political statement as president, Mr Putin told the outgoing cabinet that he was against radical changes in the government's line-up.

"I very much hope that the core of today's government will stay on, and that the predominant majority of those present here will continue on with our mutual work.

"We have reached a period in the country's life when we need stability," Mr Putin said.

Chechen campaign

As Mr Putin began his first official day as Russia's ruler, federal warplanes flew over the breakaway republic of Chechnya and the military warned people to guard against guerrilla plans to upstage the inauguration with terror attacks. Security was stepped up both in Chechnya and in Moscow.

Public support for Mr Putin's campaign against separatist rebels in Chechnya helped sweep him to victory in the presidential election.

Moscow intends to impose direct presidential rule on Chechnya now that its army controls Grozny and large stretches of the republic.

Chechen rebels on Sunday reported clashes across the republic and said they had shot down two Russian fighter jets. Their claims drew no response from Moscow, however.

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