Vladimir Putin starts again – with crackdown on dissent

Returning President speaks of democracy and openness as hundreds are detained

Moscow

As the Kremlin clock struck noon, Vladimir Putin strode through several sets of gold doors along an expanse of red carpet and on to the podium in one of the Kremlin's most lavish halls. With an expression that flickered between a smirk and a grimace, he laid one hand on a copy of the Russian constitution and was inaugurated as President of Russia for a new six-year term.

But while inside the Kremlin there was all the pomp and high ceremony that befits the venue, outside central Moscow was cleared as if for a military operation and police detained more than 100 protesters.

A day after a huge rally descended into violent clashes and hundreds of arrests, the police were taking no chances and blocked off all the roads down which Mr Putin's cortege would travel, and the whole area around the Kremlin. The limousine, flanked by half a dozen motorcycle outriders, glided towards the Kremlin through eerily deserted streets.

"I consider service to the fatherland and our nation to be the meaning of my life," said Mr Putin to the packed hall after he had taken his oath. "We want to live and we will live in a democratic country where everyone has the freedom and opportunity to apply their talent and labour, their energy. We want to live and we will live in a successful Russia, which is respected in the world as a reliable, open, honest and predictable partner."

In the short speech, Mr Putin called for unity and said the coming years would be decisive for Russia. "We will achieve our goals if we are a single, united people," said Mr Putin, who first became President in 2000 and now returns after four years as Prime Minister, during which time he was still widely regarded as the most powerful person in the country.

Even as Mr Putin spoke of unity, however, opposition activists were being rounded up and arrested. Police in body armour chased protesters around the central Boulevard Ring to make sure they got nowhere near the route of the official cortege. By the afternoon, police were simply detaining anyone spotted wearing a white ribbon, which has become the unofficial symbol of the opposition to Mr Putin. In the morning, riot police descended on Jean-Jacques, a faux-Parisian bistro popular with the Moscow intellectual class, and arrested patrons at random, tossing them into waiting trucks.

More than 100 people were detained over the course of the day, in addition to 450 who were detained at the protest on Sunday, which also left 17 people in hospital, including many riot police.

Yesterday, opposition leaders including Alexei Navalny, a blogger, were released with a 1,000 rouble (£20) fine. Moscow authorities said the arrests on Sunday only began when "provocators" in the crowd started attacking police, and Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov complained that police were "too gentle" with protesters.

Some male detainees who had not served their compulsory time in the Russian army were ordered to report to conscription points in the coming weeks, in what is perhaps a scare tactic to keep people away from protests.

"Putin looked sad today," said Sergei Udaltsov, a radical leftist leader who was also arrested on Sunday and released yesterday. "You can disperse a protest once, you can disperse it twice, but at some point so many people will come out on to the streets that they won't have enough buses or police stations to deal with everyone."

Guests at yesterday's inauguration included the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a personal friend of Mr Putin, as well as the entire top echelon of Russian officials.

Mr Putin's wife Ludmila, who is rarely seen in public, was also in attendance. During the brief camera shots of her, she looked uncomfortable and appeared to be shaking.

Also present was Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union. Dmitry Medvedev, the outgoing President who was handpicked by Mr Putin to take over from him in 2008, will now become Prime Minister.

Suggested Topics
News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album