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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin's Inauguration Heralds Start of New Era




The country's political class hailed a new era this week as Vladimir Putin took the oath of office, but the president spent the first days of his official term surrounded by members of the old guard.


Putin was joined at Victory Day celebrations Monday and Tuesday by former President Boris Yeltsin and two of the members of his inner circle, Boris Berezovsky and Alexander Voloshin.


Putin was sworn in Sunday in a Kremlin ceremony attended by 1,500 representatives of the country's political and cultural elite. Yeltsin co-starred in the inauguration, which emphasized succession and reminded some observers of a coronation.


Putin entered the Grand Kremlin Palace a few minutes before noon and walked down a red carpet past the standing guests toward the podium with his trademark lopsided swagger.


"I had thought we would be sitting comfortably somewhere," the Boston Globe quoted State Duma Deputy Irina Khakamada as saying. "But if you remember the coronations of the tsars, the court always stood."


But other potential tsarist reminders were left out of the ceremony. In contrast to Yeltsin's 1996 inauguration, Patriarch Alexy II did not participate in the ceremony, but stood in the audience.


Another difference was that the presidential order was given to Putin by Yeltsin but not hung on his neck as it had been in Yeltsin's case.


Before Putin took his oath, Yeltsin gave a speech, in which he repeated the words he told Putin upon resigning Dec. 31: "Take care of Russia."


As in the final months of his presidency, Yeltsin, 69, spoke slowly, and the audience looked uncomfortable during the long pauses.


In his speech, Putin said the country's first peaceful, democratic transfer of power was a historic event and pledged to "work openly and honestly."


On Tuesday, Yeltsin appeared again by Putin's side during a military parade on Red Square honoring World War II veterans. Yeltsin's former chief of staff Voloshin also stood not far from them on the platform.


Voloshin, one of the key members of the "family," as the Kremlin inner circle is known, was dismissed Sunday along with other top administration officials. For now, he is acting chief of staff and may be reappointed to the post.


NTV reported that Yeltsin's presence was unexpected.


On Monday, Putin, 47, unveiled a new war memorial in Kursk in southern Russia, the scene of a major World War II tank battle. Berezovsky, a State Duma deputy and financial tycoon who is considered by many to be the "family's" patriarch, also turned up in Kursk - though not as part of the official presidential delegation.


Before his inauguration and especially during the campaign, Putin maintained a careful distance - at least in public - from Berezovsky and other so-called oligarchs, though few observers doubted they were still influential.


"Of course, the Yeltsin team and the Yeltsin 'family' still have a lot of influence on Putin and on the government in general," said Yevgeny Volk, head of the Moscow office of the Heritage Foundation. "And Putin himself is a member of the family."


Volk said Berezovsky is likely concerned that the regime taking place under Putin may not have a place for him and that is why he felt it necessary to appear in Kursk.


"Those who know Berezovsky's personality say that most likely he simply wanted to show his close relationship with the president by coming to Kursk," wrote Kommersant, one of Berezovsky's media holdings.


The newspaper said Berezovsky had been invited by Kursk Governor Alexander Rutskoi, Yeltsin's one-time vice president who led a coup attempt against him in 1993.


Last year Rutskoi dutifully lined up to join the pro-Kremlin Unity party, which Berezovsky has said was his brain-child and whichvigorously campaigned for Putin.


Now Rutskoi is embroiled in a conflict with local lawmakers, who have asked Putin to investigate alleged corruption by Rutskoi's administration. But Putin refrained from public criticism of Rutskoi during the visit.


The Victory Day parade in Moscow included about 10,000 veterans and cadets, who marched through Red Square along with goose-stepping active-duty soldiers. Some soldiers were dressed in World War II-era uniforms.


Communists held their own separate parade and rally, with some people carrying pictures of Stalin.


In Minsk, Belarussian authorities paraded the armored vehicles and missile launchers that used to be part of the Soviet celebrations in Moscow.