Flying Cameras and a Prayer for Medvedev

APMilitary vehicles rolling down Tverskaya Ulitsa in downtown Moscow on Saturday during a rehearsal for a Victory Day parade on Red Square on May 9.
The final act in Russia's highly choreographed transition of power is set to begin Wednesday at noon.

When Dmitry Medvedev arrives at the Kremlin for his presidential inauguration, hundreds of VIP guests will be standing by for the ceremony, including politicians, foreign ambassadors and Russian media chiefs, Kremlin and diplomatic sources said Sunday.

Once Medvedev has assumed his duties, one of his first acts as president is expected to be the appointment of his old boss, Vladimir Putin, to the position of prime minister. The State Duma, dominated by Putin's allies in United Russia, could confirm the appointment as soon as Thursday -- the same day Putin becomes the party's chairman.

Television viewers can watch the transfer of power without skipping a beat.

Channel One, Rossia and TV Center plan to begin their live broadcasts at 11:40 a.m. Wednesday, as soon as Medvedev departs the White House.

"The procession of Medvedev's motorcade from the White House to the Kremlin will be broadcast live," Kremlin spokesman Yevgeny Mashkov said by telephone Sunday.

Two "flying cameras" have even been mounted on cranes near the Kremlin to help film the approach of Medvedev's motorcade, Interfax reported.

The inauguration will follow the same protocol as the ceremonies in 2004, 2000 and 1996, said Viktor Khrekov, another Kremlin spokesman.

As in previous years, guests will stand in three halls of the Great Kremlin Palace, and Medvedev will walk past the guests in Georgiyevsky and Alexandrovsky halls before arriving in Andreyevsky hall, a former tsarist-era throne room.

There, Medvedev will mount the podium, along with Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov and Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov. He will place his right hand on the Constitution and read a 33-word oath of office, dating back to 1993, in which the president-elect pledges to defend citizens' rights and freedoms, the Constitution and Russia's sovereignty.

It is then Zorkin's duty to proclaim him president. The ceremony concludes with the playing of the national anthem, an inaugural speech by the new president and a 30-volley artillery salute.

The Kremlin on Sunday could not provide a final guest list for the inauguration. About 1,700 guests attended the ceremony four years ago.

Among the guests on Wednesday will be deputies from the Duma, which has the day off. More than 100 media representatives will also attend, including heads of the country's top newspapers, radio stations and television channels, Mashkov said.

All of Moscow's foreign ambassadors have been invited, and the diplomats will be the only foreigners present, Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Krivtsov said.

One diplomat who plans to attend is outgoing U.S. Ambassador William Burns, according to a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman.

Last week, Burns had his confirmation hearings for his appointment as undersecretary of state for political affairs -- the No. 3 job in the U.S. State Department -- and he is holding his going-away party Tuesday night. By chance, Burns' attendance at the inauguration will be one of his last acts as ambassador to Russia.

The Estonian and Israeli embassies confirmed on Sunday that their ambassadors would be attending too. Most other embassies were closed and could not be reached for comment.

Georgia has no plans to snub its invitation to the ceremony, despite rising tensions with Moscow over the breakaway republic of Abkhazia, a senior Georgian diplomat said.

"We are a normal government, and we do not need to resort to this kind of protest," Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze told Interfax on Friday. "There are plenty of other ways to express protest, unease, dissatisfaction and demands."

One VIP guest is likely to stand out among the politicians and diplomats: Patriarch Alexy II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who has also attended previous inaugurations.

Father Vladimir Vigilyansky, a spokesman for the patriarch, confirmed Sunday that the church leader would attend the inauguration, adding that he would lead a prayer service in honor of Medvedev immediately afterward.

"After the inauguration, he will lead a prayer service in the Kremlin's Archangel Cathedral," Vigilyansky said by telephone.

Meanwhile, Moscow drivers will experience delays as streets in central Moscow shut down for the ceremony.

Novy Arbat, Varvarka, Ilyinka, Borovitskaya Ploshchad, the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, Kremlyovskaya Naberezhnaya and Moskvoretskaya Naberezhnaya will be closed from 8 a.m. Wednesday until the end of the ceremony, Interfax reported.

The same streets will also be closed early Monday morning, starting at 5:30 a.m., so police can practice security measures for the inauguration.

Intermittent showers have been forecast for Wednesday, but planes armed with special chemicals are ready to stop rain from spoiling the ceremony, as well as Friday's Victory Day parade.

"If there are thick clouds on these days, special aviation brigades will be at work in the Moscow region," said Roman Vilfand, director of the federal weather bureau, RIA-Novosti reported.

Medvedev is to preside over the Victory Day parade.