• Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Putin sworn in for fifth term amid tension with the West

Putin cancels plans to storm Mariupol steel plant

Vladimir Putin, who has been Russia’s leader for the past 24 years, was sworn in for a fifth term as president, amid conflict with the West over his war in Ukraine.

Putin took the oath of office on Tuesday, placing his hand on a copy of Russia’s constitution before assembled officials and dignitaries in the golden imperial splendour of the Kremlin’s St. Andrew’s Hall.

The 71-year-old begins another six-year term after gaining a record 87 per cent in March’s highly controversial presidential election in which he faced no serious competition.

Upon the expiration of his fifth term, Putin is still constitutionally enabled to run for another six years.

Meanwhile, he’s embroiled in a deepening confrontation with the US and its allies, which have sent Ukraine tens of billions of dollars of weapons to defend itself against Russia’s 2022 invasion that sparked Europe’s worst conflict since World War II.

The United States and other Western countries stayed away from Tuesday’s inauguration ceremony.

“No, we will not have a representative at his inauguration,” Matthew Miller, a U.S. State Department spokesperson, said on Monday.

“We certainly did not consider that election free and fair but he is the president of Russia and he is going to continue in that capacity.”

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.”

The inauguration ceremony took place a day after Putin ordered the military to conduct combat drills for using tactical nuclear weapons in response to what Russia called “provocative” statements by Western leaders.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman blamed the “unprecedented spike in tensions” on comments by French President Emmanuel Macron about sending troops to Ukraine and UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron’s statement that British weapons can be used by Kyiv to strike Russia.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation condemned Russia’s “dangerous and irresponsible” nuclear warnings.

Putin has ruled Russia since 2000, retaining power as prime minister when he installed Dmitry Medvedev as president from 2008-2012 to comply with term limits.

He removed that obstacle in 2020 by changing the constitution to grant himself up to two more terms, enabling him to remain president potentially until 2036 when he’ll be 83.

Russia’s economy is adapting to unprecedented international sanctions imposed in response to the war as the government pivots away from Europe toward China, India and countries in the so-called Global South.

Putin plans to visit China next week in the first foreign visit of his new term, underlining the importance of his relationship with that country’s president, Xi Jinping.

China has helped Russia weather the impact of sanctions by the US and its Group of Seven allies and provided diplomatic support for Putin as part of a “no limits” friendship even as Beijing declares that it has a neutral stance on the war.

The Russian president, who’s urged countries to trade in national currencies and push out the dollar, will host a summit of the BRICS group of nations in October.

The organisation which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa had the United Arab Emirates and Egypt join in January while Saudi Arabia is considering joining.