Vladimir Putin has been sworn in for another six years as Russian president, buoyed by popular support but weighed down too by a costly confrontation with the West, a fragile economy and uncertainty about what happens when his term ends.
- Mr Putin won 70 per cent of the vote after his most serious opponent was barred from running
- Attention will now turn to whom he will nominate as his PM, whether he'll groom a successor
- The constitution bars Mr Putin from running again, after he finishes his term in 2024
Standing in the ornately-decorated Andreyevsky Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace, with his hand on a gold-embossed copy of the constitution, Mr Putin swore to serve the Russian people, to safeguard rights and freedoms, and protect Russian sovereignty
Mr Putin's inauguration for a fourth term as Russian President came two months after more than 70 per cent of voters backed him in an election in which he had no serious challengers.
His most dangerous opponent, Alexei Navalny, was barred from running and on Saturday Mr Navalny and hundreds of his supporters were detained by police while protesting against Mr Putin's new term.
'To serve the people and the fatherland'
In a speech after the swearing-in ceremony, Mr Putin said that in the next six years Russia would prove a strong, muscular player on the world stage, backed by a powerful military, while pushing hard to improve life for its citizens at home.
"Taking up this post, I feel a colossal sense of responsibility," Mr Putin told his audience of Russian officials and foreign dignitaries, among them former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
"The object of my life and my work will be to serve the people and the fatherland."
For the short journey from his office to the inauguration ceremony, Mr Putin travelled in a new Russian-made limousine.
From now on, the limousine will replace the fleet of imported vehicles Mr Putin uses, state television reported.
With Mr Putin sworn in, immediate attention will turn to whom Mr Putin will nominate as his prime minister.
If he asks the current holder of the post, his loyal lieutenant Dmitry Medvedev, to stay on, that will signal continuity.
If he chooses someone new, that could presage a fresh approach on policy and will also trigger speculation that Mr Putin is grooming a successor.
Once this term ends in 2024, the constitution bars him from running again.
Uncertainty about what comes next
Foreign diplomats see little prospect that Russia's standoffs with the West that have dominated the past four years will ease during Mr Putin's new term.
Clashes in the past few weeks over US sanctions on Russia, the conflict in Syria, and the poisoning in England of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal have left some diplomats worried that the confrontation could spiral out of control.
Opinion polls show Mr Putin has high levels of support among Russian citizens, and Mr Navalny has not been able to inspire a nationwide upsurge of protests.
But the Russian economy is a potential weakness for Mr Putin.
Buffeted by lower oil prices, falls in the rouble, inflation and the impact of sanctions, average monthly wages have fallen from the equivalent of $867 ($1,154) in 2013 to $736 last year.
There is little clarity too about what happens after 2024. By then Mr Putin will be 71.
He will soon have ruled longer than Soviet Communist leader Leonid Brezhnev, whose 18-year rule from 1964 to 1982 is primarily associated with stagnation.
Likely options include Mr Putin leaving the Kremlin but continuing to run the country from another post, or bowing out of public life and handing over to an anointed successor.