Putin starts historic third term as Russian Prez

Moscow: Vladimir Putin was today sworn in as Russian President for a record third term and vowed to protect rights and freedoms, even as demonstrations marked his second coming to the Kremlin that was marred by allegations of vote rigging. Putin has held a tight grip over the Russian polity for the past 12 years — first as president and then as prime minister and a chorus of voices against his authoritarian rule has risen over the past few months.

"I swear on the power invested in me as president of the Russian Federation to respect and protect the rights and freedom of its citizens," Putin said, his right hand placed on a red-bound copy of the Russian Constitution as he officially took over reins from Dimitry Medvedev. In a brief but glittering ceremony, Putin, 59, hailed a "reborn" Russia and promised a new stage in its development. Putin, who was president of the former Soviet republic from 2000-2008, returned to claim the presidency after an absence of four years in which he served as prime minister.

Soon after his inauguration, Putin proposed his predecessor Dmitry Medvedev`s name for prime minister in line with a job swap agreement between the two. The lower house of the Duma is expected to hold a special session to consider Medvedev`s confirmation which is a formality.

Meanwhile, protests were held by the opposition against Putin`s continued hold on power. While 120 people, including opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, were arrested today, over 400 were detained in a protest on Sunday. Thousands of protesters opposed to the inauguration had clashed with police in Moscow on Sunday. Prominent opposition activists Alexei Navalny, Sergei Udaltsov and Boris Nemtsov were among dozens detained.