Calling for a "single, united" nation, Vladimir Putin has begun his third term as Russia's president—a term set to make him Russia's longest-serving leader since Stalin. Following protests yesterday, Putin was sworn in at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow in a $664,000 ceremony. In a brief speech, he urged Russia to continue a "transformation" begun under Dmitry Medvedev, the BBC reports. The country is "entering a new phase of national development," he said.
"We will have to decide tasks of a new level, a new quality and scale. The coming years will be decisive for Russia's fate for decades to come," Putin told a crowd which included Mikhail Gorbachev, Silvio Berlusconi, and Naina Yeltsin, widow of Boris. "I consider it to be the meaning of my whole life and my obligation to serve my fatherland and our people." Several protesters were detained during the ceremony, which was heavily policed. But the protests don't pose much of a threat to Putin, says a historian who notes that Russia "looks set for another dozen years of authoritarianism, cronyism, systematic corruption, and dangerous political drift."