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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Ceremony starts Putin's new term
Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin has begun his second - and final - term as president
Vladimir Putin has been sworn in for his second term as Russian president on Friday in a formal ceremony at Moscow's Grand Kremlin Palace.

The Kremlin echoed to the boom of a 30-gun salute before the president was presented with a guard of honour.

Mr Putin was elected in March, collecting more than 70% of the vote.

Correspondents say concerns about his autocratic style are dismissed by those who say Russia needs a strong hand to bring it back to its feet.

Noontime ceremony

Guards slow-marched in goose-step fashion to bring a copy of the constitution, a standard bearing President Putin's name and a medal for the ceremony.

The president took the oath of office as the clock in the Kremlin struck noon.

Kremlin gun salute
The Kremlin echoed to the boom of a 30-gun salute

The Russian national anthem was sung before a gathering of nearly 2,000 dignitaries.

President Putin then delivered his inaugural speech in the Kremlin's Andreyevsky Hall.

He promised to "do all that is in my power to justify the hopes of millions of people".

Mr Putin said Russia was becoming a unified nation having "overcome a difficult ideological confrontation, got rid of a real threat of collapse".

President Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, was unable to attend the ceremony, apparently because of a minor health complaint.

Second-term concerns

The election which delivered President Putin's second term was criticised by some monitors as an unfair contest, citing his control of the media as particularly un-democratic.

After winning, President Putin pledged to strengthen the media and the multi-party system.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford, in Moscow, says that despite the enormous margin of his victory, Mr Putin's next four years will be a major challenge.

Russia's economy is improving but it is still heavily reliant on precarious oil prices.

The conflict in Chechnya, which he had promised to resolve, refuses to go away.

And on the international stage, Russia is struggling to make its mark in the mainstream, our correspondent adds.

It is smarting from the European Union's expansion into its former sphere of influence.

And finally, Mr Putin has perhaps the hardest task: selecting a reliable successor for when this, his last term in Kremlin, is over.

The BBC's Paul Anstiss
"It was a ceremony befitting of a Russian tsar"


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