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Russia elections

Putin sworn in for new term in ceremony boycotted by US

Putin sworn in for new term in ceremony boycotted by US
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) attends the inauguration ceremony in the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, 07 May 2024. Putin won the presidential elections in March 2024. EPA-EFE/SERGEY BOBYLEV/SPUTNIK / KREMLIN / POOL

MOSCOW, May 7 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin was sworn in for a new six-year term on Tuesday at a Kremlin ceremony that was boycotted by the United States and other Western countries at which he said he was potentially open to nuclear talks with the West.

Putin, in power as president or prime minister since 1999, begins his new mandate more than two years after he sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, where Russian forces have regained the initiative after a series of reversals and are seeking to advance further in the east.

At 71, Putin dominates the domestic political landscape. On the international stage, he is locked in a confrontation with Western countries he accuses of using Ukraine as a vehicle to try to defeat and dismember Russia.

Putin told Russia’s political elite after being sworn in that he was not shutting down dialogue with the West but that it would have to make its own choice about how to engage with his country.

He said talks on strategic nuclear stability with the West were also possible, but only on equal terms.

“We are a united and great people and together we will overcome all obstacles, we will bring to life everything we have planned. Together we will be victorious,” Putin said.

Putin in March won a landslide victory in a tightly controlled election from which two anti-war candidates were barred on technical grounds.

His best known opponent, Alexei Navalny, died suddenly in an Arctic penal colony a month earlier, and other leading critics are in jail or have been forced to flee abroad.

The United States, which said it did not consider his re-election free and fair, stayed away from Tuesday’s inauguration ceremony.

Britain, Canada and most European Union nations also decided to boycott the swearing-in, but France said it would send its ambassador.

Ukraine said the event sought to create “the illusion of legality for the nearly lifelong stay in power of a person who has turned the Russian Federation into an aggressor state and the ruling regime into a dictatorship”.

Sergei Chemezov, a close Putin ally, told Reuters before the ceremony, that Putin brought stability, something which even his critics should welcome.

“For Russia, this is the continuation of our path, this is stability – you can ask any citizen on the street,” Chemezov said.

“President Putin was re-elected and will continue the path, although the West probably doesn’t like it. But they will understand that Putin is stability for Russia rather than some sort of new person who came with new policies – either cooperation or confrontation even.”

 

NUCLEAR TENSIONS

Russia’s relations with the United States and its allies are at their lowest point since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when the world came to the brink of nuclear war.

The West has provided Ukraine with artillery, tanks and long-range missiles, but NATO troops have not joined the conflict directly, something that both Putin and President Joe Biden have warned could lead to World War Three.

Underscoring the rise in nuclear tensions, Russia said on Monday it would practise the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons as part of a military exercise, after what it said were threats from France, Britain and the United States.

“We hope that this event will cool down the ‘hotheads’ in Western capitals,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

One of the decisions awaiting Putin in his new term will be whether to seek to renew or replace the last remaining treaty that limits Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear warheads. The New START agreement is due to expire in 2026.

It remains unclear how far he will seek to press his war in Ukraine – a decision that will depend in part on whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump wins the U.S. presidential election in November.

In line with the constitution, the government of Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin resigned at the start of the new presidential term. Putin will appoint a new one which is expected to include many of the same faces.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow and Mark Trevelyan in London;Editing by Andrew Osborn and Alison Williams)

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