Russia is scheduled to inaugurate its third democratically elected president on Wednesday, but the handoff from Vladimir Putin to Dmitry Medvedev comes with some strings attached.
While he will turn over the Kremlin to his protégé Medvedev, the expectation is that Putin will retain much of his power in the role of an enhanced prime minister and head of Russia's dominant political party.
Medvedev is to stride into an opulent throne room in the Grand Kremlin Palace around noon after an honor guard enters with a folded Russian tricolor and the presidential flag, according to Russian officials and state-run media. Outgoing President Vladimir Putin will give a short speech, and hand his former first deputy prime minister what is called the "presidential token," a medal with a two-headed eagle and a cross on a neck chain. Medvedev will place his right hand on a red-bound copy of the Russian Constitution and the chairman of the Constitutional Court will administer the oath. The new president is then expected to address the assembled dignitaries, which will be followed by cannons firng a 30-gun salute.
But few in Russia see the handover, after eight years of increasing authoritarian Putin rule, as anything more than cosmetic. Putin still enjoys enormous support among Russians, and it is widely thought that he will continue to run the country in his role as prime minister, reported U.S-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.